The profile photo is a beautiful image of the pedestrian bridge by Victory Park at night, lit up, over the Cedar River.
It only takes a minute or two of scrolling and reading before you come to the realization that the city of Charles City is a wonderful, positive place, and home to at least a few wonderful, positive people.
Believe it or not, the online destination I’m talking about is a Facebook page.
I’m sure you’re familiar with Facebook. It’s the place where we can connect with long lost friends and relatives, and for some reason, show them photographs of what we had for lunch. It’s fantastic.
It’s also awful. It’s a place where we can argue and exchange insults for hours and hours with total strangers — about issues neither of us knows anything about. Look away for a half hour, then come back, and someone has threatened to beat you up because you’re different.
Insult someone face to face, and it’s eventually forgotten, and hopefully forgiven. Insult someone on Facebook, and it’s there forever, and it forever seems fresh and new and infuriating.
Facebook itself is neither good or bad. It’s just a medium. What Facebook users do with that medium, however, can border on pure evil.
Or perhaps it can be used for good.
As of Sept. 27, there’s been an active locally-focused Facebook page called “Charles City Good Vibes!”
“Tired of all the drama?” the page asks us. “Want to go to a place that highlights the good qualities of our great town? Look no further! This site is all about good vibes!”
The site promises “no nay saying, no people telling you you're wrong for liking something.”
And to this point, it’s lived up to its promise. As of Wednesday morning, the page had 150 members.
One recent post talks about how much easier it has been is to drop the kids off and pick them up at Washington Elementary school this school year.
“With the new improvements for drop-off, Washington has been a breeze,” the post reads. “Also — they are always, always so welcoming and wonderful at drop off. Love our school!”
There’s another post that’s surprisingly and uniquely positive about local road construction — something that no one ever says anything positive about.
It says: “The new road at south main is looking pretty sweet!” It includes a photo of the work that’s been done so far.
There’s another photograph of people selling concessions at the local movie theater.
“Love this place,” says the post. “It’s hard when I have to go see a movie out of town because The Charles Theatre is so great and inexpensive.”
It’s enough to make you feel good about living in Charles City, if only for a few minutes.
The site administrator is local — he lives here in town, and apparently, he believes in the power of positive thinking.
“If you want to express concerns, go to the other site,” he says on the page. “If you want to just chat and keep it simple, come on in!”
He doesn’t specifically call out the “other page” by name. There are a few active local Facebook pages, where local residents are encouraged to voice their concerns. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. As I said before, Facebook itself is neither good or bad.
But when people start complaining, it doesn’t take long for them to turn on each other. It can get personal, and it can get ugly.
It’s hard to not get pulled into the vortex of negativity. I will confess, I was personally banned from one of the other pages, for calling the page administrator a name. It was very childish of me to do that, but in my defense, the name I called him was an honest and accurate characterization of his online behavior.
Still, I shouldn’t have done it, and the name I called him could easily have been applied to me at that same moment. I deserved the ban.
The administrator of the “good vibes” site writes that he hopes that kind of thing doesn’t happen there.
“I’m going to try to admin this as best as I can,” he writes. “If I see you being jerks to each other, I'll probably kick you out for a little while, but you'll have to really grind my gears to get ‘perma-banned.’”
The sentiment reminds me of an old Bing Crosby song. Yes, I’m old enough to remember Bing Crosby — barely. My parents had his Christmas album, and I remember watching him on all those great TV variety shows that were popular when I was growing up.
“Accentuate the positive
Eliminate the negative
Latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister In-Between.
Spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
Have faith, or pandemonium is
Liable to walk upon the scene. …”
The title is actually spells out “accentuate” phonetically, as in “Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate” the positive.” Bing sang it with the Andrews Sisters.
The music was written by Harold Arlen and the wonderful lyrics are by Johnny Mercer. Johnny Mercer’s version is sung in the style of a sermon, and explains that accentuating the positive is the key to happiness.
Accentuate the positive, latch on to the affirmative. Spread joy. Have faith.
It’s good advice — we’re killing ourselves with negativity, in this community, in this country, in this world. The “good vibes” page administrator writes that he’s tired of all the anger he sees on Facebook.
“I just wanted a place to go where we can post things we're excited about without getting shot down with negativity,” he writes on the site. “So if you're gonna complain, go to that other site. Let's be good humans to each other! Peace and carrots everyone!”
Humans. Let’s all be humans to each other, even if it’s just once a day. That’s something worth considering.
Peace and carrots, indeed, you humans.