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How Greenbelters Talk Online

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NOTE: This information is now out of date. Click here for the March 2017 update.

Ever wonder how Greenbelters communicate these days? Thankfully people are still talking over beers at the New Deal Cafe, over the fence and on the phone – the old-school communications that will always be popular here.  But increasingly, Greenbelters are relying on online or social communications, so here’s an overview of how and where that happens.

On Facebook



Greenbelters is a Facebook group with 1,309 members as of this writing. It’s lively and informative and generally civilized and respectful, though around election time things can get contentious.  Members who’d rather NOT see political arguments in their Facebook feedback can simply “block” the offending commenters – a terrific option I’ve been known to use myself.  On Facebook members publish updates and comments to the group without moderation.

Now if for whatever reason you’re not a fan of Facebook, you can simply create an account with minimal information about yourself and then “lurk” or read the group discussions while rarely or never updating your own account.  I know lots of people who lurk on Facebook, usually for following family members.

In a quick search I found all sorts of special-interest Greenbelt Facebook groups, both open and closed, including the Tennis Association, the Community Garden Club, Makerspace, the Greenman Festival, the New Deal Cafe and the large Online Yard Sale and Classifieds group for Greenbelt.

Yahoo Groups


Good old Yahoo groups are still alive and well in Greenbelt, with two of them to choose from.  Greenbelt Community has 290 members, sees 35-100 messages posted per month, and is described this way on the group’s home page:

This group is for all members of the Greenbelt community to use for posting community events, meetings, and news. It may be used by individuals, families, or groups that live, work, or go to school in greater Greenbelt including PTA groups, neighborhood watch groups, and groups that support the many facets of “community” in Greenbelt. It may be used to organize playgroups for young children, solicit volunteers for special events, drum up support for attendance at a community meeting, or advertise civic events such as local festivals. Persons of all political leanings and personal philosophies are welcome to join, but please leave the heated political debates for other forums!

See, no politics!  People wishing to join must be approved (to prove they’re indeed Greenbelters and not spammers) but after that, they post emails to the group without moderation.


Much larger is the Greenbelters Yahoo Group with 1,237 members currently and 180-240 messages per month (recently).  Here’s how group owner Andy Carruthers describes the group:

Since “Greenbelters” is the primary e-mail forum for Greenbelt, and includes members with many different attitudes, values and backgrounds, please work hard to keep it a positive and welcoming place. That said, independent or minority views are typically welcome here, and spirited, courteous dissent of all kinds is often celebrated.

Again prospective members must apply, but unlike the Greenbelt Community group, in this group every message is moderated and approved (or not) by the owner.


In the spring of 2013 Greenbelt Gardeners was launched and now has 73 members.  Recently it’s been used for about 14 messages a month, all on the topic of gardening.  After members are approved (by yours truly, the owner), all emails to the group are unmoderated – meaning, without interference by me.  The group has been used to give away plants, to ask for free plants, to ask for and receive advice, and to publicize gardening-related activities.

I’m sure there are other special-interest Yahoo groups in Greenbelt – maybe too numerous to mention.  Then there’s the Greenbelt Community Garden Club, members of which garden at our three community gardens.  They follow their own path and use Google Groups as their email-group service, not Yahoo.

What else?

Let me know and I’ll add to this list.

Why Facebook Pages Fail, and How the City and Organizations Can Reach Us

I’m always on the look-out for event info to add to this blog’s weekly round-up of what’s happening in Greenbelt, but some events never make it onto my radar screen. In analyzing why that happens, I’ve noticed a big problem with the Facebook pages that the city in particular is using to get the word out. Bottom line – it doesn’t get it word out, at least anymore. These days, updates posted to Facebook pages are distributed to roughly 1-5 percent of the page’s followers (people who “like” it) unless the page owner pays Facebook big bucks for the privilege of reaching its followers.

The city of Greenbelt has several Facebook pages – for the Public Works, Rec Department, the Fitness/Aquatic Center –  but updates to those pages aren’t making it onto our own Facebook news feeds. One fix is something Luisa Robles at Public Works is doing – posting the updates onto the Greenbelters Facebook Group, where we actually see them.  She may be posting to Yahoo, too, but the point is, Greenbelt, please use some other method coz your Facebook page ain’t working anymore.

Same goes for the other Greenbelt pages I’ve found: for the Museum, the Pumpkin Festival, the Community Foundation, the Farmers Market and the Co-op, some of which I believe are already posting their items using other social media avenues in addition to their own page.

Fortunately, Facebook hasn’t yet ruined the effectiveness of its groups, and members of them actually receive updates posted to them.

GHI doesn’t use Facebook but communicates monthly in print and weekly via e-newsletter, both terrific. It would be nice if its major events were also posted to Facebook and Yahoo groups, and maybe I should include them in this blog’s weekly Going out in Greenbelt update, too.

If you know of other examples of successful or not-so-successful communications in Greenbelt, tell us about it in a comment.

Follow Susan Harris:
Susan started blogging about Greenbelt soon after moving here in 2012, and that first blog has grown into this nonprofit community website. She also created and curates the Greenbelt Maryland YouTube channel. In 2021 Susan joined the Board of Directors of Greenbelt Access TV. Retired from garden writing and teaching, she continues to blog at GardenRant.com.

7 Responses

  1. Rabbi Saul Oresky
    | Reply

    Dear Friends,

    We are all shocked and saddened by the tragedy yesterday in Pittsburgh – there are no words that could begin to express our sorrow arising from the murders of 11 innocent congregants and guests at the Tree of Life congregation. However, we can comfort and sustain each other with our presence, so let us come together for a memorial service at Mishkan Torah, 10 Ridge Road, Greenbelt, MD at 7:30 pm on Thursday evening. If you can, in accordance with Jewish mourning custom, please wear something black, perhaps merely a torn black ribbon. We hope to lead part of the service by flashlight, so bringing one of those would be helpful as well.

    We are very grateful for the love and support of our larger religious community at this difficult time. Let us focus on healing, comfort, and positive action as we face the future, and I hope to see you on Thursday evening.

    In friendship and solidarity,

    Rabbi Saul Oresky
    Mishkan Torah Congregation

  2. larry
    | Reply

    If you sign up for the Greenbelters FB group and check “follow group” you will getupdates when some one posts. If a fla me war starts, you can unfollow group for a few days when the dust has settled. Blocking certain ranters, works like a charm.

  3. Luisa
    | Reply

    Thank you for your article Susan.
    I agree that “liking” a page on Facebook does not assure one will receive updates(given the way FB operates). I have made an effort to put forth information on sites I know people are likely to see, such as the yahoo groups and the Greenbelters FB page.
    Now, how can we better reach Greenbelt West (Franklin Park apartments)?
    We all strive to get the word out. Thanks for what you do!

  4. Beverly Palau
    | Reply

    Unfortunately, the event is not a City sponsored event, but sponsored by the Greenbelt American Legion. Community Events that are submitted to the city by the organization are posted free of charge on our channel and the website if the organization requests it of us or if I pick up on it from some other publication. With the hundreds of organizations in Greenbelt, as much as we would like to, it is impossible for us to keep track of events that are not directly sponsored by the City. Also, the City can not advertise these events in the News Review as there is a cost to us, so it is the responsibility of the organization to publicize. There is however a nice photo gallery of the Veteran’s Day event on the City of Greenbelt facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/cityofgreenbelt. The page is far from “static.”

    • Susan
      | Reply

      Thanks for clarifying the sponsor of the Vets event. Will shoot them an email re getting notified.
      Yeah “static” is probably the wrong word to describe FB pages, since they do change. Maybe “stationary”? Meaning the info is there for us to go seek it out but it doesn’t come to us via the ways we get notified of things online, like FB and Yahoo groups.

  5. Susan
    | Reply

    Thanks for the response. An example of an event I missed is the Veterans Day celebration day, which others are chatting about on the Greenbelters Facebook group today – no one saw it announced. Not in the News Review, not in my inbox from any source.
    And again, passive Facebook pages are no longer helpful at all. Groups still work, though.

  6. Beverly Palau
    | Reply

    The City of Greenbelt posts information and events on numerous different media sources. Primarily the city’s website at http://www.greenbeltmd.gov which lists every upcoming city event on its front page calendar and various other places throughout the site. In addition the City publishes a large weekly ad in the News Review with all of the upcoming events for the week. Information is also posted in quarterly Recreation Activity Guides, City Newsletters, GAIL Guide, the Municipal Access Channels Verizon 21 and 71, Twitter and Facebook. If you can’t find it, you are not looking for it. Anyone can register to get notifications as soon as a calendar event is posted on the website through its “Notify Me” feature. You can also sign up to get notifications of Arts Events, the Weekly and Monthly Police Reports, Senior Events, Greenbelt Theater Project Updates, and much more! Right into your inbox or texted to you! We also have a robust emergency Greenbelt Alerts that will do the same. We post on Facebook many, many times a week. Sometimes we even post to the 2 Greenbelt List Serves. I appreciate that people actively spend time, but with the amount of posting that is done on http://www.facebook.com/cityofgreenbelt, it wouldn’t be right for us to inundate their page with our stuff. The main City of Greenbelt page has 1,893 followers and we encourage people to participate in is as they do with the Greenbelters page. There are tens of thousands of pictures of city events posted there as well as videos produced by Greenbelt kids and a wide variety of information on city events posted as well. Thank you for bringing your view on Facebook to our attention. It is just one tool out of many.

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