Quesnel Mayor Bob Simpson recently quit social media.
Simpson has long been a prominent local figure on social media, often tagged in posts by members of the community who ask him questions or make suggestions about the city.
In a column posted to the City’s website explaining his decision to leave social media, Simpson wrote in the early years of social media he eagerly embraced it, with the hope that it would be “a vehicle to support engagement, broaden the dissemination of good information, and strengthen our democracy.”
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.”
It wasn’t until this past Christmas that Simpson first decided to take a break from Facebook. He deactivated his personal account as well as his political page.
Simpson wrote that during his holiday, he realized his mind was quieter than usual, no longer fixated on ignorant Facebook comments or composing a rebuttal in his head.
He hasn’t returned to the site since.
It isn’t just the global and national implications of social media that bother him, arguing in the column that it has also been damaging to the local community. “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.
He continued: “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.”
Simpson ends the release with the assertion that it would be quicker to pick up the phone and call the City with a concern or complaint than it is to simply complain on Facebook. Rather than having the situation remedied, argues Simpson, people would rather get more “likes” on their post.
He adds: “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.”
In an interview with the Observer, Simpson says he chose to write the article because he was hearing from community members wondering why he’d stopped updating his social media page. “Some people had started to get in the habit of private messaging me through Facebook instead of using my cell phone or my email. And I didn’t actually use the private message function very much.”
People often confused the Facebook message with email, so he wrote the column as a way to inform the public of his decision, and the reasoning behind it.
Moving forward, although Simpson will no longer be available on social media, residents can still communicate their complaints and concerns to the City at 250-992-2111 or email@example.com.
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.