Whether through Facebook, GroupMe, Slack, Reddit, or other platforms, virtual communities that connect people based on common interests, identities, ideologies, and geographies have become increasingly popular. Some local virtual communities, like the Conway Convention & Visitors Bureau’s #ConwayToGo group on Facebook, were created in direct response to the pandemic. Others, such as the “Ask Conway, Arkansas” Facebook group, have existed for years but have experienced a surge in membership as people sought answers and connection during a time when social distancing is encouraged to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Looking for recommendations? “Ask Conway, Arkansas”
The idea for the Ask Conway, Arkansas Facebook group grew out of frustration. Brenton Buckley was in a group dedicated to online yard sales in the Conway area, and he and another member were becoming annoyed by the irrelevant questions being asked.
“Every time people would ask questions, it would bump the items we were trying to sell further down the page,” he said. “After exchanging messages with another group member who shared my frustration, we agreed that we needed to create a space just for asking questions.”
So, they did. Ask Conway, Arkansas was created on August 6, 2013. The group has since grown to nearly 16,500 members.
“It blows my mind,” he said.
Consistent with the group’s original purpose, Ask Conway, Arkansas has become a hub for people looking for information about Conway. Common queries include those searching for service providers, like electricians, plumbers, hairstylists, attorneys, and doctors and other health care providers. People also post information about community events and holiday activities.
The group grew rapidly, so Brenton recruited other moderators and administrators to help manage it. Andrea Andrews became an administrator in March 2020 when the group had around 11,000 members.
“It’s kind of like a part-time job,” Andrea said.
Moderating a group on the internet with a goal to be family-friendly is no small task. The admins monitor posts for spam, solicitations, profanity, and other questions or comments that are in violation of the group’s rules.
“I appreciate Andrea and the other moderators who have stepped in and allowed me to take a break,” Brenton said. “We don’t just sit on Facebook all day and monitor this group. Just like everyone else, we have jobs, and we are parents, husbands, and wives. This isn’t something we are paid for; people are volunteering their time to make this a place that’s a go-to source for information.”
Just as it serves as a resource for established Conway residents, the group also attracts people who are new to the area or who are thinking about relocating. Brenton moved to Conway from New Orleans in 2005; Andrea is a Conway native.
“I’ve lived here for 27 years, and I’m still learning a lot about the city through this group,” Andrea said.
She added that she sees many people join the group who are looking for first-hand information about their new community.
“We have people ask about moving services, restaurants, parks, neighborhoods, and more.”
There is also the occasional Conway-themed joke or meme – from poking fun at the city’s abundant roundabouts to satiric questions about when Olive Garden or Red Lobster is coming to town.
“We allow people to have a sense of humor, too,” Brenton said.
As described in the group’s description, Ask Conway, Arkansas is open to anyone who “lives here, has lived here or is new to the area.” You can find the group by searching “Ask Conway Arkansas” on Facebook.