‘Peeps’ networks Nevada County
April 23, 2017
It's a combination of real-time bulletin board, digital classifieds and virtual community meeting space.
You can find suggestions, services, referrals, warnings, kudos, lost pets, photos, videos … and sometimes, personal attacks.
Welcome to Nevada County Peeps, the largest Facebook group in Nevada County. The site boasts nearly 21,000 members and receives up to 40 membership requests each week.
Tatiana Makovkin, an artist who lives in Alta Sierra, formed the group on April 15, 2011 as a way to advertise her downstairs studio apartment.
"This thing called 'Groups' had just been created on Facebook. I thought I'd try out this new feature, so I invited all my friends and posted my studio for rent," Makovkin recalled. "I told them they could post about their needs, and invite their friends. That's how it all started."
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Makovkin said she believes the group became increasingly popular — and grew exponentially — because of its timing.
"I am an activist and I think there were probably a lot of activists and political announcements at the start. There was always a question how much political discourse should be allowed," remembered Makovkin. "I was very involved in the Occupy movement. I started the art and design working groups in Occupy called RAFTT, Radical Art for These Times."
Makovkin retired as a Nevada County Peeps admin (Facebook lingo for administrator) in 2012.
"It became too much work, and there were more and more people I didn't know. All of a sudden, I was managing this crowd of strangers," she said.
Other members stepped in. Currently, 11 admins are listed on the Nevada County Peeps Facebook page. One of the lead Admins is Beth Moore.
"Our role is to try to hold people to somewhat of a medium place and common ground. We act as facilitators," explained Moore.
"Many Facebook pages are interest-based groups. They share a love of model airplanes or miniature horses or some other common interest. Here we have over 20 thousand people who only have in common the dirt we live on," continued Moore. "Some live off the grid, some in gated communities, and everywhere in between. There is great diversity in the group despite Nevada County's lack of ethnic diversity."
Admins vigilantly monitor the Peeps page to ensure members treat each other kindly and respectfully.
"Some people want to avoid conflict and don't want to enter into a fray. Others go to the internet to look for conflict and argue with strangers," noted Moore.
While Nevada County Peeps' rules are clearly listed on the page, including "No presidential politics," Moore recently posted a "play nice" reminder:
"If your post is a better fit for YOUR page, or another group, please post there instead. These topics don't fit Peeps, and are DELETED without warning:
No posts of others' personal info: license plate pics, swearing/attacks on individuals, gossip. Discussing public/elected officials' policies or duties is ok, but no name calling.
No rants, legal/domestic disputes, venting, harsh arguments, social and political hate, presidential politics, taunting/sarcasm, and posting for trouble/drama. Post these to your FB page or in other groups.
No false, un-sourced info, encouraging or promoting dangerous, illegal, hurtful behaviors."
Some Peep members have charged admins with censorship or violating the right to free speech. Another Facebook group with the same name but with a period at the end grew out of some Peeps members' frustration.
"There is an occasional minority that complains free speech is a right in a democracy. That's true, but not here," said Moore. "There are rules for membership groups. We don't call names or attack people publicly. We take the golden rule approach."
Harry Salvini, another Peeps Admin, said it is both a blessing and a curse that the page is constantly added to and updated in real time.
"Sometimes it's too real time. It can be too fast," said Salvini.
Recently, a false rumor circulated on Peeps suggesting a Penn Valley store owner had links to terrorism. The case of mistaken identity caused the store owner untold grief after many people read the erroneous post before it was deleted.
Salvini also said the site sometimes has problems with so-called "trolls."
"A troll is somebody who's a member and doesn't do anything until he wants to be nasty or contrary," explained Salvini. "Generally, we don't want to be your conscience. But we have the rules, and when you violate one, we can delete a comment or a whole thread."
Salvini, who takes responsibility to monitor membership requests, said there is one requirement to join the closed group.
"Anyone can join, but their Facebook public profile has to indicate they're part of Nevada County. They either went to school here, have mutual friends, work here, or came from here. You've got to validate you're part of the community," said Salvini. "And sometimes I ask someone to change their profile picture. I explain you're joining a family group, and it would be nice if you could make your profile picture a little less … whatever."
Overall, posts on Nevada County Peeps are generally more upbeat and affirmative than controversial or negative. "Rhi" Winders, a Peeps admin since 2011, said the Peeps page recently reunited her with her stolen car.
"Within the last six months, I had my vehicle stolen in Nevada City. I had a picture of the car — a 1989 red station wagon with wacky bumper stickers. I put it on Peeps and within 12 hours a woman saw it, recognized it from Peeps and messaged me on Facebook, plus called the police. When I arrived, GVPD was already there. It was abandoned in a parking lot in Grass Valley, with some damage. Without Peeps, we wouldn't have found it," Winders related.
She added that locating her stolen car is not an isolated incident. Pets, cars and even people have been the subject of searches on the Peeps page. Winders said Nevada County Peeps really excels when there's an emergency.
"It's become a space for supporting people who are in need. For example, when people from Marysville were evacuated because of the Oroville Dam, there was tons of activity," explained Winders. "People were asking, 'Where do I take supplies? Where can I volunteer?' Peeps becomes most useful when our community faces a crisis. We can do that for each other regardless of our political stance or viewpoints."
Winders concurred with other Admins that maintaining civil discourse among Peeps is just one of the challenges.
"Also, you can't post the same thing over and over, such as a Tupperware sale," she laughed. "We have to limit some of that."
"There have been occasional, infrequent complaints that the page tends to lean toward one political perspective. It's because we have guidelines that require people to play nicely, and some prefer politics where that's not required," added Moore, who noted that Peeps facilitators don't march in lockstep. "I know the admins each voted for three or four different presidential candidates."
Back when the site had fewer than 10,000 members, someone offered to buy Nevada County Peeps with the intent to operate it as a paid subscription page.
"We just ignored the offer," said Moore.
Moore believes the Peeps page already plays and will continue to play an important role in Nevada County life.
"I think it absolutely connects people who might otherwise never cross paths. Although there is a small minority that is prone to treat our page as a Jerry Springer episode, the great majority comes there to connect, to share, to offer resources," said Moore.
Lorraine Jewett is a freelance writer who lives in Nevada County. To suggest a business news feature, contact her at LorraineJewettWrites@gmail.com.