For many Prince George community members, the Hell Yeah Prince George! (or HYPG!) Facebook group serves as a beacon of positivity amidst the onslaught of negative news online. What started as a conversation between two friends living in Prince George on the under-appreciated nature of Prince George, led to the group’s creation in 2014 and its huge outreach since, with a current count of 48,000 members.
David Mothus, admin of the Facebook group, recounts how his friend Scott McWalter came up with the idea for the group during a trip to a skating rink in Prince George. Mothus says that McWalter mentioned how “Down in Vancouver, there would have been a thousand people on this ice oval and we would have been crowded out, and we come up here and there’s two of us on this amazing ice oval … we’re so lucky to live in Prince George, there’s always these fantastic things [to do] and we are so underappreciated.”
They could only find another online group with a strong focus on Prince George titled WTF Prince George; Mothus candidly says, “all people do is go on there and [b****] about the mayor, about the city, about crime…”. This realization led to their new venture to spread positive news about Prince George online.
After McWalter returned home from the skating rink that day, he created the Hell Yeah Prince George group, and it quickly gained popularity. Mothus said, “Within a week, it caught fire, everybody wanted to join this page… in a month, we had about 20,000 people on it, Huffington Post contacted us, CBC, CPV, everybody.” Currently, the group boasts nearly ~700 new posts monthly and features an eight-member moderating team.
Fundraisers and community events spread generosity
Hell Yeah Prince George’s overarching theme is one of positivity. A quick scroll on the group’s feed expresses a clear intention to uplift. Community members use the platform to praise businesses or individuals that offer good customer service, discuss community events (to save advertising costs for companies) and highlight charities’ philanthropic ventures. Since the group’s inception, they have raised a combined $10 million for charity.
One notable fundraiser two years ago involved them forming a team of 15 business and philanthropic leaders to raise $100,000 for the BC Cancer Foundation. Within an hour, they had received $150,000, constituting the largest fundraiser in BC Cancer Foundation history.
“That honestly made me bawl. It was so overwhelming. That’s the level of support that this page has generated in this community,” says Mothus.
In another instance, Mothus issued a call for donations to help a Salvation Army employee fix his car. The $11,000 raised from the open call eventually went towards reimbursing a woman for donating her deceased mother’s car. “There’s hundreds of stories like that… too many to remember all the things we’ve done now,” says Mothus.
Lastly, Mothus notes the group’s overwhelming positive slant. He cites recorded statistics that 0.5 per cent of comments in 10 years had to be removed due to racism, homophobia, etc., which he considers a tiny fraction of the total number of comments compared to other online groups.
And while this emphasis on positivity might put a limit on challenging yet important discussions, Mothus says that other online groups already bring awareness to events that stir up negative feelings in members like political events. For Mothus, HYPG!’s concerted focus and theme creates its own value.
“We’ve created a distorted fake sense of the world that’s purely positive,” says Mothus. “But there’s a lot more space for everyone to just get stuff done”.