Quesnel’s mayor has decided not to return to Facebook, after quitting at Christmas, saying the rumours and vitriol spread by users defeats any benefit it may have to his community.
In a column post to the city’s website, Bob Simpson wrote that he embraced social media in its early years, hoping it would help get people engaged and better informed.
Instead, he wrote: “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.”
Simpson has long been a prominent figure on social media, often tagged in posts by members of the community who ask him questions or make suggestions about the city.
He decided to take a break from Facebook last Christmas, deactivating both his personal account as well as his mayoral page.
During his holiday, he said he realized his mind was quieter than usual, no longer fixated on ignorant Facebook comments and composing a rebuttal in his head.
He hasn’t returned to the site since.
“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,” wrote Simpson.
“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 schoolyard 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.”
In closing, he said it would be quicker to solve an issue by calling City Hall than to simply complain on Facebook.
“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.”
If residents are looking for information during emergencies, they can sign up for the city’s emergency notification system at www.quesnel.ca/emergency-notification. You can also follow the Quesnel Cariboo Observer on Facebook.
You can read Simpson’s original column here or in the May 1 print edition of the Quesnel Cariboo Observer.