Turns out, you can learn a lot about a region from their social media groups. A recent New York Times ‘I Was Misinformed’ column explains…
Local communities groups on Facebook are hardly rare. Saugerties and Woodstock both have groups where locals and visitors looking for suggestions on anything from pediatricians to firewood can ask to join. Sometimes, the posts are less about finding advice and services and more about things that truly bring a community together: the horrible weather. The lateness of the heating oil delivery guy. Absurdly high utility bills. Downed power lines. Local fires. New York Times columnist Joyce Wadler recently mined gold from these Catskills community groups and penned this piece about it.
Wadler is currently looking for a house upstate and joined some local community groups on Facebook. The groups seemed to quell her urge to peruse the listings, as looking for a home upstate, Wadler explained, “I can tell you it is far better than owning.” Noting such Catskills hardships as neighborhood bears, flooding, and the aforementioned winter heating bills, the piece offers direct quotes from those Facebook community groups just how shocking those bills can be.
“‘Just moved up to the area and was horrified that my electric bills are $200 to $300 a month. Is that normal?’ ‘Utilities are very expensive here.’ ‘Do you use electric baseboard heating? Friends do and bills some months average between $500 and $600.’ ‘I had a small three bedroom and the cost in January for baseboard heat, washer and dryer was $1,100.’
My throat went dry, reading these posts, my heart pounded.”
Tell us about it, Joyce.
While the author find the groups to be warm and friendly – Woodstock is a place where “if Fluffy goes missing, you will get more expressions of sympathy than if your life partner dies” – she decides that, ultimately, it’s better if she sticks with an Airbnb rental for the time being. A summer rental, naturally.
The piece brings up an interesting question about the future of the Catskills that most of us who live here full-time think about on a regular basis…
Will potential full-time residents eschew the harder winter months in favor of the balmier summer? And, if they do, what does mean for the economy of these summer-friendly communities? Will they lean more heavily on Airbnb business to drive them through the winter? What will happen to the housing prices? Wadler, in fact, brings up the village of Woodstock in the piece, a place that has begun to rely heavily on summer trade…and the housing and rental prices are reflecting that trend, pricing out long-time residents in favor of short-term renters. Is this humorous little piece about Catskills community Facebook groups an accidental harbinger of things to come?
Maybe. More importantly, we wonder how, in all of these spectator-like forays into the Facebook community groups, Wadler didn’t stumble upon the ultimate treasure trove of local character and hilarity: The local yard and garage sale group pages. You really want to get to know a community? Find those groups. You won’t be sorry.
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