BY BOB SIMPSON
This past Christmas, I decided to take a break from Facebook and temporarily disable both my personal account and my political page. As a general rule, I’d always attempted to stay off my phone when I took some downtime but had not treated my social media accounts the same way; like many people, I was convinced I had to stay “connected” to all my “friends” and, as Mayor, stay connected with my “community.”
On a cross-country ski during my Christmas holidays I realized my mind was quieter than usual because I wasn’t fuming about some ignorant comment on Facebook or framing arguments in my head to rebut the nonsense people were yelling at each other about things they clearly knew nothing about (especially on WTF Quesnel).
I haven’t enabled my Facebook account since, and don’t intend to. Since disabling my accounts, my stress level is much, much lower and I have more energy to focus on the things that really matter and on the positive and progressive vision we have for our community.
I remember well the enthusiasm with which I embraced social media and the hope many of us had that we’d found a vehicle to support engagement, broaden the dissemination of good information, and strengthen our democracy. How wrong we were. Social media has been implicated in the deliberate spread of disinformation, the selling of people’s personal information, active profiling and discriminatory practices, and has been methodically used as a tool to interfere with democratic elections in multiple jurisdictions.
In addition to the negative national and global implications of social media platforms, the community impact has been just as damaging. People’s use of these platforms to spread rumours, disseminate patently false information, and bad mouth people (not just politicians) vastly overwhelms any good this mode of communication may provide in any community.
Simply put, Facebook and other social media platforms have negated one of the first principles of personal and professional communications: deal directly with the person or organization to get clarity or to remedy a concern or complaint. It has also diminished community dialogue to school yard slurs and bullying; too many adults use language and intimidation tactics on Facebook that they would never accept from others or use in face to face communications.
From the city’s perspective, people take to Facebook to complain about things that, if true, could be better and more speedily dealt with if they had simply picked up the phone and reported the issue directly or emailed the city with their concern/complaint. For too many people getting “likes” has become more important that getting the offending situation remedied using more productive and responsible means.
While I will no longer be using social media to communicate to our community, the City of Quesnel will continue to use this platform and our website as a way to provide factual, accurate, and timely information and notices of upcoming events. In addition, you can communicate your concerns directly to the City by phone at 250-992-2111 or email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For timely information during emergencies, you can also sign up for our Emergency Notification System at www.quesnel.ca/emergency-notification.
It’s my sincere hope that all the negative press and negative experiences people are having with social media platforms will result in more people going back to picking up the phone or dropping into City Hall to have their concerns heard and addressed rather than trolling for likes. If you have an issue with council or with the city, talk to us and let’s engage in real dialogue about your concern based on factual information.