As vibrant and strong as Leaside’s Wildcats, Flames, Leafs, tennis, badminton, and I’ll add in…Skyzone, and even the new Costco clubs are, the only club in Leaside that has more than 6,000 registered members is the Leaside Community group on Facebook (disclaimer: I actually have no data on Costco but thought it might get a chuckle, maybe they do have more?!). The bottom line is a club in Leaside with 6,000 unique registered members, which equates to 45 per cent of the population of Leaside-Bennington over the age of 15, represents an incredibly powerful network.
Billions of individuals around the world rely on various social media each and every day. The World Economic Forum (2016) reported that globally we send more than 30 million messages on Facebook and nearly 350,000 tweets every minute and the numbers keep growing. Social media has permeated almost every part of our lives. A quick search on Facebook in September indicated there were six ‘closed’ groups with a Leaside focus. They are: Leaside Chit Chat (1,732 members), Leaside Moms (449 members), Leaside Community Forum (720 members), Leaside Community Buy & Sell (1,899 members), Leaside Moms Buy/Sell (2,554 members), and Leaside Community (6,051 members). Fascinated to understand more about the users and usage of these sites, I reached out to Robyn Hochglaube, the founder and current administrator of the largest.
Show me the numbers
Robyn was gracious enough to let me play around with the data tools provided by Facebook. The gender split of the membership is 35 per cent male and 65 per cent female. Based on the past 12 months of data, the average number of active members per day was 2,401. Collectively, we members have made 10,772 posts, provided 46,927 comments, and 81,588 reactions (e.g. ‘likes’, ‘hearts’ – everybody likes to get a ‘like’) during that same period. In summary, the site is underpinning a tremendous amount of community interconnectedness. The slower usage days are Friday and Sunday. On the average day, site usage begins humming by 9 a.m. and holds steady before the momentum shifts upward around 4 p.m., continuing to rise until just after 11 p.m. (peak) when things begin to taper off.
Member distribution by age (Sept. 2018)
As I reviewed the site’s usage by age (see Table below), it was clear that our Leaside teens appear no different from their peers around the world. As has been widely reported, Internet users between the ages of 12 and 17 are ‘dumping’ Facebook for Instagram and Snapchat. Through a ‘convenience sample’ I conducted in Leaside, this appears to be the case. Even though Leaside teens don’t generally use the site, they still stand to gain considerable benefit.
No doubt, social media will continue to have a profound and growing impact on our lives. With its ability to facilitate group communication and collaboration – it’s like being able to: shout over a neighbour’s fence to get the latest score of the Leafs game, find out what’s being built “over there,” post a bulletin on a light pole with far greater reach, instantly alert fellow Leasiders of potential safety threats to home and family, conveniently sell/buy something no longer need or do need, etc. As its power and reach become better understood (e.g. perhaps even change the course of an election), I feel social media platforms can play an important role in boosting civic engagement. They can be a powerful community-building tool and help to bring about positive change wherever we, as the Leaside community, can agree on the change that is needed. Now there’s the real challenge!