Even the most active participants of the Facebook forum Bainbridge Islanders don’t have the dedication to monitor every comment of every thread of the buzzing nearly 3,000-member conversation. But as the group’s administrative lead moderator, Christina Albrecht Tinling, sees it all—the good, the bad, the ugly, and just about every nuance in between.
Tinling joined the Bainbridge Islanders admin team as an assistant last December and took over as the main moderator in early March when the forum’s founder Marilynn Price Mitchell decided she had had enough of the bad and ugly and informed the small assistant administrative team that she was deleting the entire forum unless someone was willing to take it off her hands. Tinling told me she believed too much in the value of the forum as a community resource to let it go, so she stepped into the unpaid volunteer role, well-aware that Mitchell had been burned out both timewise and emotionally.
Tinling didn’t pull punches in telling me about the down side of the work. She regularly deals with anger, hurt feelings, complaints, attacks, and legal threats. She said the negative feedback outnumbers the positive by 10 to 1, especially when the conversation gets what she calls “hot” over controversial topics.
Case in point was a conversation thread last week that Tinling said heated up “in the wake of impending bulldozers” to clear forested land for the Visconsi mall. She told me the person who posted the original comment had raised very good points and that she had written him to ask that he tone down part of his comment that violated the forum’s Dos and Don’ts guidelines. She said the conversation had been a very valuable one that had garnered over 100 comments. Then it was mysteriously deleted. In response, Tinling temporarily took over exclusive control of the admin powers. And then she had a lightbulb moment.
She launched a no-holds-barred “bad sibling” splinter forum of Bainbridge Islanders. “At first there was serious blowback and the reception was static-y,” said Tinling. There was a debate about the new forum’s name and then a debate about the debate. She told the group to go with it, saying, “orangutans are skeptical of changes in their cages.” Eventually the name Radio Free Bainbridge was settled on, and things calmed down.
When I spoke with her a day or two after she started Radio Free Bainbridge, Tinling seemed practically giddy at the prospect of a place where locals, including herself, can spout off completely without moderation. ”Get your togas on and take it to the [Radio Free Bainbridge] forum,” she told Bainbridge Islanders. But Tinling is equally relieved at the prospect of taking off the pressure from Bainbridge Islanders, which she describes as “the front porch of the Island general store.” She explained: “I hold the group very lightly; I don’t like intervening and enforcing. But when a political thread gets hot each new comment bumps it to the top, and the regular practical helpful stuff gets buried.”
I mentioned that in the short time since Radio Free Bainbridge launched I had noticed people quit in disgust and then rejoin. Tinling laughed and said she calls that a “rage quit,” a phrase her kids use to describe a frustration moment during videogaming.
I asked Tinling how she handles the logistics of moderating Bainbridge Islanders. A mother of four, she told me she fits 95 percent of maintaining the site into little pockets throughout her day, mostly from her smart phone. Once a week she spends a few hours at her laptop evaluating and approving requests for membership in the forum. The criteria is not always clear cut. Tinling tries to determine what connection each person has to Bainbridge Island if they don’t live here. People with strong ties to Bainbridge, like those who work here, are obvious approvals. Others are a judgment call.
As for why she does it, Tinling said the rewards are closely tied with the challenges of the job. She said helping people work through hurt and alienation with empathy is her biggest reward—that and those two little words, “thank you.”
- Will ‘Buy Nothing Bainbridge’ Change the World?
- ‘IslandDads’ aka IslandRads Speaks Its Mind
- My Rock: Are Bainbridge Islanders ‘Privileged Whiners’?
- Tips for Bainbridge Island Newbies (& Visitors)
- Letter from the Editor: Our Opinion of the Kitsap Sun’s Opinion of ‘The Bainbridge Stereotype‘
- You’re a Bainbridge Mom If . . .
- You’re a Bainbridge Dad If . . .
Photo of Christina Albrecht Tinling by Julie Hall.