Hyper-local social media groups ask that you give where you live
FARGO — A strong community can have everything it needs for one another.
That’s the principle behind Buy Nothing Fargo and Moorhead, two hyper-local social media groups who ask that members give generously and show gratitude in hopes of strengthening the social fabric of their communities.
“The whole purpose of the group is to bring the community together,” ReNae Simmons, administrator of the Buy Nothing Fargo group, said.
It does so by offering up, or asking for, whatever may be needed by the local community: Pickling spice, aloe plants, rides to the doctor, the desire for a game night, advice, even an emergency request for a broken snow shovel replacement can be found on the Fargo group’s page.
A bittersweet memory, Simmons said, was a neighbor who would ask for food and, eventually, a suitcase for a hospital trip.
“She passed away,” Simmons said. “One of her gratitude posts was she was grateful to wake up every day.”
Each group is limited by boundary lines, meant to service an immediate area. Simmons started the boundary line for the Fargo group quite small, but she was turning away so many people she increased the boundaries to include all of Fargo. She hopes more splinter groups will form in the metro area.
“You’re not supposed to join more than one group,” Simmons said, “because the point is to actually get to know your neighbors.”
No money, or even quid pro quo, is allowed.
“It’s just a pure giving or asking,” she said. “And also gratitude is a part of it.”
Simmons officially began Buy Nothing Fargo in August of 2019. Since then, it’s attracted 132 members. As a volunteer administrator, Simmons underwent training, which is offered twice a month for those looking to start a local page.
Tiffany Knott, a Buy Nothing Fargo member, said she joined the group the day it started.
“Especially with everything going on right now, I think we need to realize that we are one community,” Knott said. “We are truly in everything together. Being neighborly, and trying to help people, will definitely go a lot farther than hating each other or shaming people for not having access to resources that others do.”
When Tanya Huschin moved to Fargo from the Jefferson Park area of Chicago six months ago, where she had been an active participant in one of the city's many Buy Nothing groups, she was looking to continue that strong sense of community. She tends to give what she has, as she can and as it’s needed. One time, it was even a bike.
“It’s nicer to give it to someone in the neighborhood than sell it,” Huschin said. “It’s a wonderful group. I feel like it’s a really good way to get to know your neighbors.”
The movement uses Facebook as its platform, which already had a free global architecture by 2013.
Since its founding in Washington state by two friends in 2013, the Buy Nothing movement has spread worldwide. According to its parent site, https://buynothingproject.org/ , as of January there are 1.2 million participants and 6,000 volunteers in at least 25 countries.
The grassroots, volunteer-led movement, which has no funding source, focuses on reducing, reusing and recycling, finding new homes for things that might otherwise end up in landfills and oceans. One of the other important benefits, according to the site, is that neighbors get to know and trust each other.
“Sharing builds trust between members, and this trust allows groups to grow quickly and encourages people to both give freely and ask for what they need,” according to the parent site.
Michelle Webber, a Moorhead pastor who moved to the area from Silicon Valley in California six years ago, started the Buy Nothing Moorhead page in June of 2019.
“It grew really fast,” Webber said. “We hit 200 members within a month.”
Webber had been hoping somebody would start a group in her area, because she really wanted the resource in her community. But, six years ago, she said, the F-M area wasn’t yet an internet community.
“I just got tired of hoping,” she said, “and I turned my hope into action and did something about it.”
While she and her family have benefited from the resource, she said, the group is about interaction and the sense of community that can bring. She said it’s sometimes referred to as “the virtual way to ask your neighbor for a cup of sugar.”
“I think it’s the impulse to be in community,” Webber said. “That’s the thing with Buy Nothing. The gifting is meant to create a relationship. That’s why, typically, we don’t do curb pick-up.
In light of the pandemic, she said, some of the guidelines have been relaxed and adapted to keep everyone safe. Curbside pick-up is allowed, and sanitation before and after any transaction is encouraged, as well as no-contact exchanges.
It’s not meant to be a one-time transaction, but an ongoing relationship with those you share your lives with.
“Ideally, eventually, I’d like to have three groups,” she said.
That’s because the community, and the generosity, are so big.
Amber Herbranson moved from Moorhead to Fargo during the pandemic, and the people she met in Buy Nothing Moorhead helped her move.
“These two people who I met were younger and healthy,” Herbranson said. “I don’t know how I could’ve moved without their help.”
Herbranson is now a member of the Fargo group. She’s looking forward to building her support system, as well as being there for others.
“I’m all about peace and love and social justice,” she said, “and so it just makes sense that I’d be a part of this.”
Buy Nothing Project: https://buynothingproject.org/
Buy Nothing Fargo: https://www.facebook.com/groups/615041582660797/
Buy Nothing Moorhead: https://www.facebook.com/groups/2370274563231605/