As the region gears up for the October municipal election, one candidate, incumbent Mayor Lisa Helps has announced she won’t be using Facebook on the campaign trail – or at all.
In a post published on her blog today, Helps starts with a disclaimer that reads, “Tech is the number one industry in Victoria with amazing, innovative and entrepreneurial people working in that space. This post is not a rant against technology; it’s about putting social media in its place.”
Upon announcing she will be logging out from the social media giant for the last time, Helps reminded Victorians there is no shortage of ways to connect with her.
She listed her e-mail, cell and office phone numbers, directed people to her blog and reminded folks of her weekly hour on CFAX (every Friday from 3-4 p.m.), the lunch time lectures she holds at City Hall, as well as the Community Drop In, her personal favourite.
“Sometimes it’s hard and people come in really angry,” Helps said of the biweekly open house. “And through conversation and connection that anger fades to understanding.”
Facebook was still a civil place when she first took office, Helps explained, saying she appreciated the way it allowed ideas to be shared and feedback to flow.
But, this has changed.
“Facebook has become a toxic, echo chamber where people who have anything positive to say are often in defense mode against negativity and anger,” she wrote.
The post goes on to detail the research Helps says has informed her decision, and while she doesn’t cite the recent controversy Facebook is swirling in, she does call the whole operation “psychological violence” given the way algorithms are designed to perpetuate negative messages.
As a result, Victorians sometimes show up angry and outraged before they’ve even received any information and the community is unnecessarily divided, she wrote.
“This isn’t good for the state of our democracy in Victoria where what we need is to be able to talk with each other and listen to each other about the challenges we face as a community.”
The mayor says her plan is wean herself off Facebook slowly, “just like when I quit coffee” and is looking forward to improving her focus, engaging in more face to face conversations and “keeping her noodle intact.”