With 31,105 members, Free & For Sale is UCSB’s largest online social market. Those who are a part of the closed group are able to buy and sell everything from housing to clothes to textbooks at virtually anytime. The page has also evolved into an outlet for students to post relatable memes and videos, make announcements about community events, and air their grievances about both local and global events.
Recently, however, the forum has been overwhelmed with various kinds of drama, including tirades over bad bike collision, public shaming for stolen parking spots, and accusations of sexual harassment or racial discrimination against various restaurants.
Many of these posts have most likely been written out of the goodness of people’s hearts to make sure that residents of Isla Vista and UCSB remain safe and well-informed. Unfortunately, many of these posts contain personal information that was probably revealed without the consent of the party being posted about.
For instance, there are several pictures of people’s license plates that have been posted by people frustrated at someone for parking in their spot. Given the difficult parking situation in Isla Vista, it is understandable that someone who pays for a spot would be upset about someone else stealing it.
That being said, publicly displaying someone’s license plate allows strangers to find and expose private aspects of that person’s identity such as their name and address; it also increases the possibility of stalking, as the owner of the car can be easily followed if a random person the from internet recognizes the license plate in person.
An alternative method to getting a spot back would be to speak privately with the individual who parked there or, if the individual is unknown, to leave a note. Unfortunately, it is not guaranteed that parking transgressions will not occur again, but trying to communicate directly is better than making a personal issue a public one, benefitting no one.
Another subject that appears on Free & For Sale at least once per week is bike collisions. While it is unfortunate that collisions occur so often, these posts make UCSB students aware of the serious consequences they can suffer due to reckless biking and encourage people to engage in better safety measures.
Many times, though, these posts blame and insult other bikers rather than promoting positive messages of safe transportation. What would be more effective is finding a way to contact those involved in the accident, discuss the situation, and design a solution to decrease the amount and severity of bike collisions.
While internet fights do not often occur on Free & For Sale, they have the potential to develop, especially when posts are made that publicly shame specific people. On one hand, the comments section leaves room for anyone, regardless of race, class, or gender, to present their opinions openly. The downside to this is when people become so passionate about their argument that they detract from the initial post and create unnecessary drama among people they don’t even know in real life. Thus, a cycle of bullying ensues.
Nonetheless, Free & For Sale is also responsible for some pretty positive posts. For instance, someone recently advertised a free parking spot at the library she was no longer using. Other members have publicized mental health support groups, financial aid resources, and found access cards (I myself have sold a few articles of clothing which has helped pay for the occasional in-a-rush Subway sandwich).
Essentially, it is important to share messages that will benefit the community, but in such an open space, where there is no anonymity, it can be dangerous for people to share their thoughts on private events. Members of the page must recognize that it is difficult to manage the large influx of posts the admins receive daily — one of the moderators of the page even made an announcement about the challenges of their job.
Free & For Sale has a duty to ensure the safety of all individuals, which means monitoring certain content which may violate the privacy of said individuals. More careful monitoring will ensure the Facebook page remains a unique and wonderful space for UCSB students to foster connections, earn some money, and become more involved in the community.