Sunday, February 26, 2017

The Risks of Social Media

The past election had a more active social media presence than past campaigns, largely through Facebook.While every candidate wasn't on Facebook, several were, and some treated it as their main communications tool.  I'm not on Facebook, although Andrea is, mainly to keep track of my side of the family - only one of her seven siblings is also on Facebook.  But she can see photos of various nieces, nephews, great nieces and nephews, and keep up on their doings.  Guthrie is on Facebook and Instagram; Ingrid does not do social media, preferring her conversations to be face to face with real friends.  In fact, a few years ago we were in a restaurant in Saskatoon, and saw a family whose son was in grade school with Guthrie.  We said hi, then a bit later the son showed up.  It turned out to be a birthday celebration for the son.  Andrea suggested that Guthrie go over and say hi; he said no (he's notoriously shy), and said that he'd already said happy birthday on Facebook.  So this guy is a Facebook friend, but not someone you're willing to have a conversation with.  Very strange.

I have no idea how Twitter or Instagram works, and no real interest either.  I guess that my only social media presence is through this blog, which I started several years ago.  At the time I was under attack by most of the rest of council, and Andrea suggested that this would be a way of getting out my perspective on the situation.  Interestingly, at the time, the idea that I would take matters into my own hands, and present a different viewpoint really surprised and annoyed my fellow councillors.  One even got up at a council meeting to say that he didn't want to read about a witch hunt (I had suggested that most of council was just interested in forcing me to resign), I pointed out to him that nobody was forcing him to read the blog, but I wasn't going to stop.  And over the years it's proven to be a valuable tool in keeping city residents and others informed - many people have told me that they appreciate the information that I provide.

Facebook has a lot of clutter.  Andrea logs in maybe once a day, and sometimes complains that the newsfeed is filled with posts that have resulted from people sharing, liking, trying to win contests, or reposting stuff from news media or other sites.  And she doesn't even have that many Facebook friends.  She has figured out how to block some ads, and scrolls through everything else.  So far the benefits are outweighing the costs for her, although she occasionally comments on how most people post about the fun things that they're doing, not about the full spectrum of life.

From what I understand, during the election, the stuff posted by candidates on Facebook tended to the negative.  And because of the size limitations, postings tended to be short and not necessarily relevant to the real issues that face this city.  Pictures are not always worth 1,000 words if you don't know the full context.

And then there are the comments.  Anybody with access to a computer can post a comment, and more often than not, there doesn't appear to be much thought put into being relevant.  Usually it's just trying to make somebody else look bad - as I've said before, people will say things about you on-line that they wouldn't dream of saying to your face.

And once something is posted, it's there.  You can delete a post, but if someone, somewhere, gets a screen shot of your post, it's available forever.  One councillor has found this out, and is now scrambling to justify a post which he made before announcing his candidacy, in which he suggested that the city needs to have a safe injection site out by the landfill, and that we should just let the herd eventually thin itself.  I'm not sure how quickly he deleted it, but not quickly enough - it's been reposted on other sites, and this week a local news site asked him about it.  At the least, it's an embarrassing thing to happen that could have been prevented by not hitting post so quickly, and maybe by having someone else review it, both for grammar and for possible repercussions.

I'm not the final word on what this blog says - Andrea reviews every blog, not just for spelling and grammar, but for accuracy.  If something has been said in a news report, for example, the numbers should match.  She also is a good reviewer for tone - it's okay to be angry, it's not okay to be nasty.  And she's a firm believer in the adage that you shouldn't put anything in writing that you wouldn't want read out loud at your funeral.

Social media is a tool, but it's not the be-all and end-all.  There are some very smart people who don't feel the need to post pictures of their meals, or their vacations, and it's usually worth the effort to make personal contact.  And it's important to remember that if you want your message to get out to everyone, not everyone has computer access.  Don't assume that just because you picked up a number of likes on your post that it means that you have the full support of the community.  Prince Albert is bigger and more diverse than that.

"Say it, forget it; write it, regret it." - Judge Marilyn Milian (The People's Court)

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