Quesnel, B.C. Mayor Bob Simpson has quit social media.
Simpson, who says he was an early adopter of social media, was known for his Twitter and Facebook presence both as an MLA and now as mayor, engaging with people through various platforms.
He found social media useful in situations like wildfires, when he needed to update the Quesnel community, but he said the platforms came with more negative aspects than positive.
“[I] found that most of my time was spent dispelling rumours and dealing with uninformed people who were spouting off about things in our community that were just really negative,” Simpson told Sarah Penton, host of Radio West.
“Despite attempting to communicate in a positive way and in an educated way, I just became, as all politicians do, the subject of a lot of vitriol and abuse.”
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Over Christmas, Simpson decided to take a break from Facebook and temporarily disabled both his personal account and his political page.
“My stress levels and my mind were a lot quieter. I just felt like I was getting a better psychological space and more energy to do the work that people elected me to do by not being on social media all the time.”
Simpson decided to break up with social media permanently.
Social media worked – at first
When Facebook and Twitter were first becoming popular tools for politicians, Simpson felt the platforms were an opportunity to broaden the base of engagement in the democratic process. He wanted to communicate with people who didn’t attend town halls or participate in polls.
At first, Simpson said it worked.
But soon Simpson found that online trolls spread disinformation about municipal projects. He also found the ways in which the public communicated about issues in the community weren’t helpful to the governing body.
“[People] would post on social media things that normally they would pick up the phone and report,” Simpson said.
He says calling or emailing the city of Quesnel directly about a concern produces a speedier fix.
“For too many people, getting “likes” has become more important that getting the offending situation remedied using more productive and responsible means,” Simpson wrote in his weekly City of Quesnel column on Wednesday.
Simpson says while he will no longer communicates with the community through social media, the city will continue to use various platforms to provide information for Quesnel residents.
Simpson can still be reached through email.
Listen to the full interview here:
With files by Radio West.