No Parking!

When you see that title, do you smell a rant coming?

I was on Facebook today when I noticed that some of my friends were “friending” our local parking authority.

Quick, what is wrong with that sentence?

The reason I was annoyed was that the Lancaster Parking Authority was now on Facebook. As a person. Someone had created a personal profile for the parking authority (the agency that controls and regulates parking in our city), as opposed to a  business page.

Now if you even know me the slightest bit, you’ll know that this is a pet peeve of mine: businesses and other “non-people” using Facebook improperly. More specifically, setting up personal profiles on Facebook, rather than business pages. It even irks me more when government agencies and bodies do this because they should know better. Setting up a personal profile is…now read this carefully:

A violation of Facebook’s Terms of Service

That’s right; it’s wrong. As in, “illegal” by Facebook’s standards. And this isn’t the first time it has happened. In fact, our county government has done the same thing. Yes, Lancaster County also has an “illegal” Facebook profile. Not illegal in that the police will come and cite or arrest you, but illegal in that Facebook can shut you down, without notice, for violating their rules.

So, these are situations where government organizations and agencies, which are there for the purpose of upholding laws…are doing something that is wrong. Surprising? Probably not.

I’m not sure what the Parking Authority is thinking in all of this, but there are only two options:

  1. ignorance, and
  2. willful ignorance

Based on what I see, I’m going to believe that it’s option 2. There is nothing written on their wall. And you can’t write anything on their wall if you try. That’s probably what they want. In fact, when our county first put up their page, it was talked about in the newspapers. I contacted the administrator of the page and pointed out that they were in violation of the Facebook TOS and the person on the other end admitted that they knew.

So if they did this willfully, knowing that they were doing it wrong, why were they doing it in the first place? Because this was the only way they could completely turn off commenting and prevent people from writing on the wall.


They were afraid of what people might write on their wall. They didn’t want engagement of any sort. In other words, these Facebook pages are merely broadcast platforms. Last time I checked, that was called a “website”. Or worse yet, a megaphone. They want to shout at the world while closing their ears and eyes. Heaven forbid that the citizens have the chance to speak back…in a democracy.

Talk about a blatant misuse of Social Media, not to mention seriously missed opportunities.

And yet, this is business as usual. This is why when you read Gini Dietrich’s recent post about the White House’s new Social Media Crowdsourcing site you’ll hear her skepticism, as well as the skepticism of her commenters. We’ll believe it when we see it.

When our government approaches something “new” like Social Media, more often than not, it’s business as usual. Is it any surprise we’re jaded?

Having said that, I’ll give you one example of a government agency doing it right.

One of my former college students posted on my Facebook wall the other day telling me about the Facebook page for the Cumberland County Department of Public Safety. During the flooding that we have experienced this week in Central Pennsylvania, this government agency has properly built a robust Facebook page that not only provides timely and relevant information, but allows comments from area residents, and is incredibly engaging. People are asking questions, and the department is providing answers. In fact, they’re even responding to questions they can’t answer, telling folks where they can get those answers.

Well done.

I look forward to a day when government bodies and agencies, and yes, even businesses, approach Social Media with the proper mindset, and with an understanding of how Social media is supposed to work.

I believe that Social Media can be an incredibly powerful tool for all of us, with a government that Abraham Lincoln said was “of the people, by the people, for the people”.

But first, we have to trust the people.

Is your Social Media presence driven by fear? Are you afraid of letting the “people” have a voice?