Part 1: Politicians prioritize the human touch on social media
7 mins read

Part 1: Politicians prioritize the human touch on social media

'I'm not a fan of Facebook. Personally, I will tell you guys right now, social media is like a cancer. 'This is nothing but a big rumour,' says Springwater's deputy mayor.

Editor's Note: The following is the initial installment in a three-part series.

Municipal politicians know that they will face criticism for the decisions they take. It's part of the deal of being an elected representative.

For the most part, local politicians say their personal interactions with residents are generally respectful and polite, even when they go head-to-head on specific issues or when debates become heated. Can't meet.

However, online, it's a completely different ballgame.

Some local politicians say social media has become a medium for misinformation, harassment, bullying and intimidation.

Anita Moore said, “I have certainly been harassed or 'lobbied' and quite forcefully by very influential, successful and wealthy members of my own community to make a decision one way or another.” Springwater Township Councillor.

“Comments were made such as 'it's part of the job/you get paid for this' – or (it's) 'what you signed up for' which gives the impression that your name and reputation are being tarnished. , have the option and opportunity to insult or verbally abuse you if they don't agree with your decision making. You're free game,” he adds.

Local township councilors earn about $25,000 per year. Township mayors are paid slightly better, between $38,000 and $51,000 per year.

They're not in it for the money.

“I've found that most council members I've talked to start out as volunteers in their local community,” Moore said. “They are community-minded people who enjoy helping others, being engaged, and making a small difference in the lives of those around them.”

Moore said he used social media during his election campaign – “I didn't have Facebook, Instagram, etc. before this.” – Because it was needed to reach more voters and keep its election message clear and consistent.

“As you continue to put yourself out there more often – attending events, ceremonies, meetings that are live streamed – it will help others raise opinions, take positions, create a perspective about council members, and make certain “It gives us the opportunity and opportunity to be critical online from the sanctity and safety of our homes,” she said.

Essa Township County. Peter Kiesebrink says he is concerned about the increase in online harassment and bullying. He believes this is because society has lost the ability to communicate constructively, rationally.

“People in our society are losing the ability to engage in civil conversation and debate when considering topics from different viewpoints or ideas,” Kiesebrink said. “I believe this is what is driving the polarization of society as well as most of the political oppression online.

“I'm not particularly active on social media because it's almost impossible to have a balanced civil conversation/debate on that platform,” he said. “I hear from people who are more active that nasty comments are There is no blame on me, the other council members and the township/staff.”

Like other local politicians, Kiesebrink says he has a non-engagement policy when it comes to social media. He says he has never been a victim of online bullying or harassment, but he also has no interest in pushing his luck.

“I'm sure it would go down fast if anyone got involved,” he said.

Essa's deputy mayor, Michael Smith, is also on the same page.

“I don't engage in social media,” Smith said. “I have seen how negatively it impacts many other elected officials and I am proud to help those who contact me directly with their issues.”

'Huge Rumor Mill'

At a recent council meeting, Springwater Deputy Mayor George Cabral offered his opinion about Facebook after reading a post from an online group dedicated to sharing township news, which claimed that local council library branches. Is going to be closed.

“I'm not a fan of Facebook,” he said at the township's April 3 council meeting. “Personally, I would tell you guys right now, social media is like a cancer. This is nothing but a big rumour.”

Cabral said his biggest issue with social media is the way people abuse an “incredible communication tool”.

“It affects everyone who is digitally connected and there is very little protection or immunity from this instantaneous digital harassment, hatred or ridicule,” he said. “It's very easy for some people to be rude, assertive and, frankly, threatening at times.”

Others also agree with Cabral's opinion.

Oro-Medonte County. Lori Hutchison addressed cyber-bullying at the township council meeting, which took place on Pink Shirt Day, an annual event against bullying.

“With social media, online harassment of political figures has become a serious issue,” Hutchison said at the February meeting. “Unfortunately, this negative activity is also happening here in Oro-Medonte.

“This activity spreads misinformation and undermines the character of those who have put themselves forward to serve on the council,” he said. “It does not provide solutions and has the potential to divide our community.”

Hutchison said it's important for the community to know that bullying can take many forms and no one is immune.

Essa Mayor Sandy MacDonald has been on the Township Council for more than 20 years. During that time, she said she was never threatened or intimidated. She has had discussions with people who didn't like some of the council's decisions, but because she was transparent and honest with them, she was able to put out the “fire” before it even started.

“Today, people on social media are ill-informed and are spreading misinformation or just want to spoil the atmosphere,” he said.

“I do not associate with Facebook. I have an open policy to contact me and together we can try to address concerns,” MacDonald said.

Essa County. Liana Maltby said she has been very fortunate during her tenure as a public figure – she has never felt intimidated.

“I have spoken to some residents who are very passionate about their concerns, but I have not felt bullied,” she said.

While Springwater County. Danielle Alexander says she thinks the word “bullying” is overused, admitting that social media has become “an extremely unhealthy environment”.

From a political standpoint, Alexander said she would rather not get involved on social media, but it is difficult to do because social media is a great way to speak directly to residents.

“I find it unfortunate that people use social media to directly attack the character of their elected officials,” Alexander said. “While it's okay to disagree with the way I vote on an issue, I feel that comments on posts often cross a line and become aggressive and abusive.

“What I find most interesting is that Springwater is such a small community, I will often meet people who have no problem feeling free to express their opinions about me on social media platforms, but who are not comfortable with me face to face. -Will not participate in the conversation in front.” -Face,” he added.

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