Moderating SL community discussion a full-time job

Pearl Lorentzen
Lakeside Leader

Slave Lake community discussion on Facebook has become an important part of the Slave Lake community. Sharon Watchel didn’t start the page, but has been the sole moderator for the last three or four years.

Moderating the Facebook page is “a fun thing to do,” Watchel says. “Sometimes it’s a lot of work. I don’t think people realize how much work it is. Sometimes it’s a full-time job. I’ve spent entire weekends monitoring it on my phone or tablet.”

Watchel moved to Slave Lake in 1975. She’s worked at various businesses including H&R Block and The Leader over the years. She is currently retired.

Alison Birch started the Facebook page. Six or seven years ago, she asked Watchel to help her moderate the group.

Birch told Watchel that people listened to her when she responded to her posts.

“Great then now I’m the mom,” Watchel told Birch, but decided to give it a try.

“The discussion page is an integral part of our community,” Watchel says. “Everyone goes to that page for their information. If you can’t post on there people get angry.”

“The whole world doesn’t revolve around the discussion page,” Watchel says. “But it’s very useful” for finding out about events and telling people about lost animals etc.

The moderator has discretion for allowing people to join the group.

When it first started, the group was only for people in Slave Lake, but people in Wabasca, Red Earth etc. shop in Slave Lake. The group has expanded to include people in the greater area.

The moderator is responsible for keeping the conversation civil.

“This year with the election, we had to shut it right down,” Watchel says. “There was hate speech. It was the hardest thing I’ve dealt with on there.”
During that period, all posts had to be approved by her.

“I don’t understand it,” Watchel says. “It got to the point that, there are people who said to me, I’m not speaking to that person because they said this or that.”

Other challenges to moderating have been with emergencies. For example, when a canoe capsized a few years ago. Watchel had to filter through the people who were just being nosy and those who had boats and wanted to help with the search.

Despite the challenges, Watchel enjoys moderating the group.

“I’ve made some friends, that I’ve never met,” Watchel says. These are the people she knows she can count on when there’s conflict.

“I try very hard to be neutral,” Watchel says. “It’s good to know there are people out there that have my back.”

Sharon Watchel

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