Social media often gets a bad rap as some users disengage from their surroundings or become addicted. But social media also can be tremendously helpful and connect people in positive ways as shown by the Pleasanton Community Group on Facebook.
Pleasanton resident and businesswoman Sandy Schneider, the group's administrator, founded the Pleasanton Community Group/Page a few years ago to provide a forum for residents to interact and share constructive information about local news, events and topics in a positive way. The impetus occurred after she went to another local Facebook page and the first post she saw was an offensive, racist rant.
"It was in that moment that I decided I wanted to create a different kind of social media page/group, where I, and everyone else who chose to join me, would be exposed only to good, constructive and positive posts," Schneider recalled.
The Pleasanton Community Group is now almost 7,000 members strong, and they are encouraged to converse in a "polite, respectful and kind manner."
Schneider reviews and approves all of the posts before they show, and she and moderator Evan Miller remove comments they deem inappropriate. Plus, the page has specific rules that are vigilantly enforced: Nothing political is permitted; and rants, profanity, bullying and the dissemination of false information are prohibited.
Commercial self-promotion and advertisements are also forbidden, with the exception of "Small Business Monday," when local enterprises are permitted to promote their offerings and services. Additionally, members must agree that public sharing is not allowed so what is shared within the group stays within the group.
Asking for money is not allowed either. Members of the group may alert others to upcoming fundraising events but cannot directly request money. This means no Go Fund Me or Facebook fundraising links, which can sometimes be scams that prey upon people's generosity.
With this framework in place, the Pleasanton Community Group's overall tone is of a safe, warm, welcoming and civilized space. Schneider says her goal for the page is "to always provide help and information in the most direct, concrete and transparent manner," and she encourages members to give more to the page than they take from it and they absolutely do.
"I find this page helpful in several ways," said member Sharolyn Borris. "One concrete example that comes to mind is the outpouring of organization and donated skills in the early time of Philip Kreycik's disappearance."
Indeed, the page has become a valuable community resource that has conferred concrete benefits throughout Pleasanton and beyond. For example, Schneider spearheaded the collection of backpacks, baby products, children's clothes and work clothes for parents, hygiene products and gift cards to deliver to the victims of the 2018 Carr fire in Shasta and Trinity counties. She used her time and organizational skills to engage community members and businesses, including San Francisco Giants baseball star Brandon Crawford, Pleasanton's U-Haul and California Pizza Kitchen, to provide goods, services, food and support where desperately needed.
Sometimes information shared on the page is minor, like posts about road closures and traffic congestion. Other times, information confers greater, long-lasting benefits.
In 2019, a decorated Army veteran and his wife moving from Las Vegas to Santa Rosa stayed at a hotel in Pleasanton where their truck with all of their belongings was stolen from the parking lot. Members of the Pleasanton Community Group, through posts about specific items needed, outfitted them with essentially everything that was stolen, including clothing, utensils, appliances, dog beds and furniture, although unfortunately his Army medals were irreplaceable.
Right before Halloween, Tara Fairchild posted that her son Kevin, an Amador Valley High senior, was doing a service project a food drive for Goodness Village in Livermore, a "tiny home" community that provides services, vocational training and nursing support for homeless people. Fairchild invited trick-or-treaters to come to her house on Second Street with non-perishable food items for Kevin to deliver to Goodness Village, which resulted in several crates of canned foods being donated.
More recently, Jennifer Diamond-Ducey created a post asking about volunteer opportunities for her offspring. Within an hour, she was connected with organizations that allow children to volunteer with their parents, and a group member offered her two large bags of fleece to be crafted into blankets for the Valley Humane Society. Someone else in the group offered to teach her children how to make the fleece blankets.
"I'm so grateful for the Pleasanton Community page," Diamond-Ducey said. "There is no better place to ask questions that are locally motivated, anything from cell phone service to volunteering to lost and found. It really adds to that hometown Pleasanton community feel that we fell in love with when we decided to move here."
Diamond-Ducey recently posted a photo of three handmade domino holders, asking where she could buy more.
"Hello! Does anyone happen to know how I can get another one of these domino holders?" she inquired. "We bought three of them when there was that cute store downtown … and at the time we were a family of three. Well now we are a family of four that likes to play dominoes so we are looking for another."
Lo and behold, member and local artist Gary Winter knew the craftsman, Norman Pacheco, and put Jennifer in touch with him to make the fourth domino holder.
The page has also been helpful for parents to share information about getting COVID vaccines for young children. Once again, this page is all about local people helping friends and neighbors keep the community as safe, connected and informed as possible.
While social media can sometimes be nothing more than a distracting and even harmful waste of time, when used productively and monitored responsibly, as done by Schneider, its benefits can be enormous.
Editor's note: Nancy Lewis is a Pleasanton resident and a regular contributor to the Pleasanton Weekly, preparing the Streetwise column with her husband Jeff. She is an avid member of the Pleasanton Community Group and was eager to share her joy about it with readers.