Murrayites still find community during social distancing through one man’s Facebook page
May 11, 2020 12:11PM
By Shaun Delliskave
John Park created the Murray Citizens Facebook group. (Photo courtesy John Park)
By Shaun Delliskave | [email protected]
In the age of digital communication, compounded by coronavirus social distancing, one man’s Facebook page has become the unofficial town square of Murray. John Park’s “Murray Citizens” Facebook page has been the go-to place for Murrayites to notify residents of everything from new arrivals of toilet paper to concerns about crime.
With an overwhelming number of social media sites and the fickle popularity of the latest community apps, Murray Citizens Facebook page continues to attract new members. Park, who founded the page in 2015, has moderated this page voluntarily.
“I moved back to Murray in 2015 after growing up here. The last city I lived in was Syracuse, and we had a similar group that was there. I wanted to do the same thing for Murray since it was a nice way to connect to the community,” Park said. “The problem I saw with that group was there was just so much junk that people put in there that deterred people from participating. So, I sought to make something a little more moderated.”
Park is not a web designer or marketer, but he is communications center director for Classic Air Medical. The page has been able to do what a lot of other Murray Facebook pages have not, and that is to attract followers.
“I remember right after making the group and handing out postcards that it didn’t get going.
“I was super bummed out because I didn’t know how to build the momentum. It seemed like little by little people would trickle in, and I would make a request asking people to invite their neighbors. We had a few hundred people, and then it seemed like it really took off when the Murray Journal did their ‘Park Madness’ poll, where people had to vote for the best park. I got really into that and kept sharing and asking people to vote and invite people, and the group really started moving in the summer of 2018.
“After that, the growth was pretty consistent, with about 30 to 50 people per week until COVID hit. Right around the beginning of March, we started seeing around 100 people a week joining, which has been crazy.”
Park estimated that he spent, on average, an hour a day managing the site with no pay, and until recently no assistance. Early on, he spent his time finding articles about Murray, but now it’s more about vetting new members, moderating content to make sure that posts are within the rules, and chatting with the moderators about how to handle different posts.
Since the COVID crisis, the page has increased membership from 2,910 on March 1 to 3,530 on April 1. Even though unpaid, Park has found satisfaction with managing the page.
“The moment that means the very most to me was the community response to that poor family, where Cassidy Jackson and Lisa Wiley were killed. People were posting photos of the neighborhood lined in ribbons, and tons of active fundraisers, and outreach to the elementary nearby and more.
“Having been a first responder and having my friends still in various fire departments around the county, I knew that the crews that responded were taking it hard. So, I hoped to do a little fundraiser to raise $100 to buy them dinner. Well, the community had a huge outpouring of love, and we raised $500. So, we were able to buy dinner for every crew who responded, including the non-Murray fire crews. When I went to the fire station to hand it off, I happened to be there at the time they were doing their debriefing, and it was very emotional.
“For them to see the community lifting them up was so inspiring. That was hands down my favorite time with this page.”
Park is now stepping down from the group he founded and turning it over to a team to manage. After moderating several debates in the group, one member decided to make it personal with Park and threatened him. Even though Park created the page and the rules that the members must abide by to post, a member harassed Park after he took the post down by anonymously sending emails to his work.
In his last post as administrator of the page, Park posted, “Thanks every one of you who have been a contributor to the community. You guys have made the last years exciting to see this place slowly bloom into the awesome hub it is today.”