LEWISTON — A reputation for online bickering and hurt feelings may convince members of a Facebook group devoted to local politics, Lewiston Rocks the Vote, to shut down and go their separate ways.

“It’s not as contentious now as it was during the election,” Heidi Sawyer, the group’s founder, said. “But I want people to see the bigger picture, that the animosity between people is more hurtful than helpful. And I don’t know that we can get past discussions.”

Sawyer is putting the group’s fate to a vote of its members — and so far, they’re favoring closing it down for good.

“Nobody really wants to get caught up in the drama,” Sawyer said. “I feel that ultimately, people do want a place to have these conversations. But when you start those conversations, people just forget to listen and to try to understand. They want to continue to push their thoughts and opinions, especially where politics is involved.”

It doesn’t mean it won’t be back in some other form at some point in the future, she said.

“It might be better to pull the plug and start fresh down the road after everyone has had a chance to relax,” Sawyer said.


Majority rules, she said. If the group says to pull the plug by Friday, she said she’s doing it Saturday.

Sawyer started the page in late September and watched it grow to more than 400 steady members by the November election. She and two of the group’s other moderators hosted the Lewiston mayoral debate leading up to the runoff vote between Ben Chin and Robert Macdonald.

She originally set it up as an online resource, where residents could post questions to City Council and School Committee candidates.

“Ultimately, you can’t go and have these kinds of discussions at a City Council or a School Committee meeting,” she said. “That’s not the place for these kinds of discussions. They are not set up for a two-way dialogue, and a town hall forum doesn’t work because some people may be too busy. The good thing about social media is that it can be available when they are. Maybe it’s at 10 a.m., maybe it’s at 2 p.m.”

But Sawyer often found herself at the center of controversy, having to negotiate between online rivals and moderate or remove comments.

“But the downside is the excessive confidence people get from being behind their computer screens,” she said. “They have a removal from personal interaction and looking in someone’s eye and it changes the way they say what they want to say.”

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