Updated: Jun 4, 2019
I sat down with Marni Keeping, who runs the On Common Ground Facebook Group, to discuss her remarkable success and her thoughts about connection in today's world.
Why did you start On Common Ground?
I started on common ground because I felt that there was a need in the community to to reconnect people. I found that over time, with technology and people having busier lives, that we are becoming disconnected. I decided to create On Common Ground to try and change my little corner of the world by connecting people.
How many people do you have, as of today?
1857. It took me 15 months to grow the group to this level and every day more people join. I think it hit the mushroom point, where things are going to kind of, blow up like a mushroom cloud. It'll really take off from here.
It kind of hit that tipping point.
Why is your group so successful?
What I've done different is I've taken the resources and the experience that I've had and the little bits of knowledge that I've gained over the years, about many different things, to find ways to reconnect people through something that's common. For me, a lot of that has come through my hairdressing business, listening to people's issues, problems and worries for the last 23 years. Feeling disconnected is a common theme that runs through the four walls of my salon.
Yes, as a hairdresser, you must hear a lot.
Hairdressers need to be counselors, and really good listeners They should be paid more. Right now, it's like they're getting the counseling service with the haircut.
Why do you call it on common ground?
Because we all walk on common ground and there is so many different things in society where people are segregated. It's different because of the neighborhoods and people living in their cars. The one thing that we all have in common is that we walk on common ground, that will connect all of us. If you look hard enough, we've all heard of the six degrees of separation, you find people who know people and so on.
People in South Surrey / White Rock ask me all the time if I've heard of your group because your group is different. You make the difference.
Well, yeah, but it's also different because it's not fully virtual. I have a belief that we use the tools we have at hand, a lot of that is technology, which we can't really go back and get rid of. So we have to use it to our advantage to go back to kind of the old way the old school way of connecting people and I think that's the only way to go. I'm kind of a crossover generation where I'm a bit old school and a bit new school. And I've had to adapt to technology whether I liked it or not. I'm just trying to add my old philosophy about how people should connect to technology, which is the new way of thinking and the new way of doing things.
I talk a lot about Generation X and how we are that bridge between the old and the new and we're ignored and we have a lot of problems that governments don't seem to want to work on or solve and we are ignored by media and marketers. Yet it's our generation that has high divorce rates, addiction, financial struggles, and are isolating ourselves because of it.
I would like to have people in general, whether it's dating or whether it's just friendships, or acquaintances, get back to talking to one another actually having a coffee and a meaningful conversation with somebody. It doesn't matter it's male, female, whatever, I just feel that it's really important to do that and to try and connect and find ways to connect, but also find topics.
If you have knowledge to help somebody, your knowledge is somebody else's University. So if I were to say to you patient, "I'm having a really hard time with blah, blah, blah," and you say, "hey, Marni, I know how to solve that." Or, "I know someone who knows someone who does." If you talk long enough with somebody long enough some brainstorming will happen, some problem solving will happen, and guess what - Problem Solved.
I've rarely met anyone an ATM line, grocery store line, coffee shop, all those places that I hang out, that turns into a friend or a connection that I'd ever see again. So why do you think we don't talk to people anymore?
I think there's a certain amount of fear associated with it, fear of judgment, or that we're not good enough, that we don't have anything worthy to say or do. I also feel that we've become a very private generation.
When we used to have things like neighbor gates in between neighbors properties and lower fences so you could hop over or you could walk through the gate we were connected to our neighbours, but today we just build bigger fences and drive into our garages.
I think it's because people don't want other people to know what their problems are. So, they build higher fences and they put blinds up. We never used to have blinds on our windows, we'd leave the curtains open and only draw them at night, when he had the lights on inside.
I think people are are intensely private for no reason anymore, but then there's all the stuff about everyone posted all over Facebook.
I think it's a different thing, with people posting things on Facebook, they need to understand what what kind of a tool it is and why they're using it. I decided to go on Facebook years ago, much like everybody else, because I wanted to see what relatives far away we're doing or friends that lived in different provinces we're doing. I've certainly done my share of posting wonderful looking meals or checking into places. But that's kind of not what I've evolved into. I've evolved into using Facebook as a tool to educate people about something I might feel passionate about. I use it to inspire people and also to make people laugh. That's just my choice. Other people use it for different reasons.
Your Facebook posts have a lot of engagement, which is something that businesses are always trying to figure out. Why do you think you get so much engagement in your posts?
I think I get engagement because of the three things I just spoke about, education, inspiration, and humor. I think those are the things that people are touched by them in some way.
Sometimes I'll post something that's inspiring and it might just be the right thing that that person needs to see at the right time and they respond to it. I might be in a goofy mood, so I'll post up a funny picture of me at a breakfast and people will say, hey, that's just the thing I needed to see today. If you can affect people in a positive way, it inspires you and feeds you to do more. It's sort of a reciprocal kind of thing. If you give, then you receive and I give because I like inspiring people. I like sharing the knowledge that I have. And I like sharing my humor. They're useful tools in this world.
When the world is good, it's good. And when it's hard, it can be really awful. How do you get out of that negative space?
Sometimes you might need to see that little thing from one of your friends on Facebook or from my on common ground group, and that might just be the thing that tips my day to the positive side.
This is part one of my conversation with Marni Keeping about her Facebook group, On Common Ground, and connection. Stay tuned for part two. If you have any thoughts about Facebook, connections, and where the world is headed, please leave them in the comments section.
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Shannon Peel is a Professional Marketing Manager and Storyteller. Her company, MarketAPeel, helps Professionals define their personal brands and tell their story through different channels, including writing their book.