By now, you may have heard of the tragic loss of Jenny-Lyn Watson, a 20-year junior at Mercyhurst College who was killed by her ex-boyfriend last month. She went home for Thanksgiving break and went missing Saturday, November 20th. A week later her body was found in a park near her home in Liverpool, NY.

The week-long search for her sparked extensive media coverage of her case. In social media, a Facebook group grew rapidly with messages from friends passing along current information about the case. The Facebook group now has over 26,000 members. A search for Jenny-Lyn Watson on Facebook turns up dozens of tribute pages, sadly, some restricted to no commenting.

Why no commenting? Well, there are trolls. There are people who write dumb shit in online forums. But I’m compassionate. I think people get angry and upset. Even if they didn’t personally know the family, maybe the situation hits close to home for them and it sparks a misplaced outburst. Is that ok? No. But I try to believe that people are good, just hurt, and not just trolls.

Even the pages that allow for commenting show that there’s trouble controlling the comments. Sometimes, they have to shut down the commenting capabilities because of disrespect.

My question to the community managers is this: What can we do to help? I’m serious. We are professionals with experience establishing and moderating online forums. Raise your hand if you are in charge managing one of these for your company:

  • Twitter account
  • Facebook page
  • LinkedIn group
  • Independently made Q&A siteĀ (Like this qHub one I run)
  • Message board
  • Blog comments

Did you raise your hand? This means you have experience dealing with online conversations. You have likely written community guidelines, flagged comments, done a littleĀ policing, done a little engaging in an online community that is essentially similar to a Facebook tribute page.

Maybe we could help set up the pages and manage it during the crisis period. We could write guidelines, flag comments, moderate the page, etc. Or, we could simply offer training or “on call” advice to those who wish to moderate the pages. Would it be tough work? Yes. It’s a tribute page. This is sad and awful and real and it sucks. But I had this re-occurring thought about the whole thing: I didn’t know Jenny-Lyn. However, someone that knew her very well is managing this page right now in the middle of grieving. I don’t know if the page is making his or her process any easier, and maybe a little help from someone like myself could.

In November 2008 my friend Lindsay died in a tragic accident. She was in critical condition for several days, and the fastest way to get information was through a Facebook group. It was updated much quicker than the traditional news outlets. When it came to finding news from traditional news outlets, I would see awful, hateful things written about the situation in the article comments. Much worse were the comments in community forums that popped up in a Google search. One person’s honest search for information turned into a twisted game of dodging digital landmines. Seeing how media and communication had changed during that experience is what got me involved in social media.

So, I can’t say I know how Jenny-Lyn’s friends feel when they see the comments. But I can relate somewhat. And I’m wondering what my next steps are.

4 Comments on Tribute Pages and Facebook Groups: Can Community Managers Help?

  1. Mark Pedersen
    December 3, 2010 at 10:26 pm (7 years ago)

    Awesome post, Janet! I am definitely on the same page as you. And I felt similarly when my cousin died and I read awful things in the comment sections of news article – from complete strangers!

    I love your suggestions and I think there is a lot more we can do. I guess we can be the guardian angels of cyberspace. Sometimes I feel like I am surrounded by so many people that are just downright mean. It’s nice to know that someone else out there believes in helping people as much as I do. Keep up the good work!

    • Anonymous
      December 4, 2010 at 5:24 pm (7 years ago)

      I’m sorry to hear you had to experience this with your cousin. I think oftentimes as social media professionals, we think that our contribution will be Tweeting with hashtags for charity and using our online influence for a cause. This is a different way of helping out, by using our expertise and the skills we have from our day jobs to positively impact another person’s online experience.

  2. Jennalyns
    December 3, 2010 at 11:01 pm (7 years ago)

    I will never ever ever ever understand why people leave terrible comments about tragedies. Ever. Maybe the call to action is creating a formalized group that offers pro-bono services for tribute pages.

    • Anonymous
      December 4, 2010 at 5:22 pm (7 years ago)

      Thanks for your comment. I’m right there with you, leaving nasty comments in such a sensitive conversation is mean and unproductive. It takes a certain kind of person to write some of the things I’ve read. I think that is the call to action here, what I’m trying to brainstorm is the discoverability of it. How can I reach the people who would benefit from this type of help before they set up the pages/Facebook groups?


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