Editorial: Actions speak louder than (Facebook) words

It was pretty exciting when Facebook first made its mainstream debut on the web. This was the brand new, grown-up way to create an online identity and interact with people from your own community and beyond.

Over the years, groups formed, businesses joined, marketing took off, and Facebook became the entity we know it as today: a bizarre hodgepodge of short videos, memes, sensationalist headlines and lots of debates and arguments – often political.

During election season, these ‘Facebook fights’ seem to skyrocket. The tension online is palpable – one wrong post or word sees a virtual attack – with commenters seemingly flocking to their keyboards to show support or condemnation.

But these posts – often long, run-on sentences meant to establish a particular point or position – do more than reveal how much time a person spends on Facebook.

Black Press reporter Paul Henderson spoke to defamation lawyer Brian Vickers last week, who said there can be legal consequences to those who ‘air their dirty language online.’

“A lot of people don’t know how rough it can be if you go posting on Facebook,” Vickers told Henderson. “Especially if you have assets.”

Read More: B.C. lawyer talks defamation during the municipal election

And during election season there’s even more at stake. Voters might have those negative comments and posts in mind when they head to the polls Oct. 20.

Facebook users can type anything they want into the blank slot at the top of community groups and pages, but it doesn’t mean it’s true. Candidates with good intentions, who care deeply about their communities, are not sitting in front of their computers all day. They are in their community, talking to people, learning about the people who live there and making connections, both with potential constituents and with neighbouring municipalities.

Candidates should be focused on the future of their communities, on where they see opportunities for growth or change, not on the actions or alleged shortcomings of other candidates or administrations.

Facebook can be an effective tool for politicians. It increases their reach, helping them connect with constituents who they may otherwise not hear from. It allows them to reach people where they are and hear their concerns in real time.

That’s all great, but in most cases, voters should put to use an old adage: Actions speak louder than words. Especially words typed from the safety of one’s computer.

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