— Lisa Helps – Victoria Mayor (@lisahelps) February 12, 2019
ANYONE CAN BE THE MAYOR … ON FACEBOOK
Lisa Helps – Victoria Mayor
(she/her) Using Twitter for positivity; will not respond to hate or fear. For city business email me firstname.lastname@example.org
From the Victoria BC home page, which Loony Lisa uses as her own personal blog (we pay for her propaganda platform when she could use a free one like the rest of us).
Sunday evening, while I was celebrating Chinese New Year at a banquet hosted by the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association, I was also, apparently, getting back on Facebook. A page called “Lisa Helps – Victoria Mayor” with my photograph and an initial post that sounded eerily like me appeared.
“Hello Victoria! I have decided to start using social media again to engage with this city better, and look forward to many productive and positive discussions in the future!”
Except that it wasn’t me. More worrisome were the posts that followed. Meant to be satire but tinged with homophobia and racism, they were close enough to reality to be read as reality by the careless reader. And who reads social media carefully anyway?
The worrisome thing about these fake posts – spending $21 million on rainbow crosswalks and turning churches into mosques – is how many times they were shared and commented on. And, according to Head of Engagement at the City, Bill Eisenhauer, who read through some of the comments, “it certainly looked like some people did believe that it was an actual site from the mayor.”
City staff contacted Facebook to ask them to take the page down, which they did within a couple of hours.
I work really hard to communicate as directly as possible with residents in a number of ways. Through my bi-weekly Community Drop In, on Twitter, through my blog and in face-to-face conversations whenever I have the opportunity. Some people even text me with ideas!
It’s really troubling that somebody would create a fake page to spread false information when it’s difficult enough to get the facts out about the work we’re doing and the decisions we’re making at City Hall. I’m grateful that Facebook has shut the page down, but it doesn’t prevent another one from popping up tomorrow. This is the second time in the same number of months that someone has created a fake page, pretending to be me.
I shut down my Facebook page last year after outlining the reasons why in this blog post. Facebook is a toxic echo chamber that is unhelpful to politics and community building. And, it even affects the way we think and how we relate to one another. The fake page reminds me of why I left. The fact that on Facebook, somebody can actually become me, look like me, sound like me with no repercussions until we tell Facebook ‘Hey, that’s not really me,’ says there’s a problem with that social platform.
Victoria mayor calls Facebook a ‘toxic chamber,’ says she’s pulling the plug
Saying it’s become a toxic echo chamber rather than a place for civil discourse, Victoria Mayor Lisa Helps is quitting Facebook.
“When I started this job as mayor and when I was a councillor, Facebook was a civil place,” said Helps, whose savvy use of social media was seen as one of the keys to her razor-thin victory 3 1/2 years ago that claimed the mayor’s chain of office.
“Over the past four years Facebook has changed and it’s become sort of a polarized echo chamber where sometimes no matter what I post, everyone brings it back to one particular topic or another, or worse, when someone posts something positive on my page, they get attacked by whoever is waiting there in the echo chamber wings, waiting to pounce on any kind of positivity,” Helps said.
Helps, who decided to quit Facebook prior to the Cambridge Analytica data collection scandal that broke on the weekend, has been weaning herself off, deleting her Facebook apps from her phone and her iPad.
She said her research shows that Facebook “peddles outrage” — as algorithms that maximize attention give an advantage to negative messages.
“It’s actually designed to create segregated echo chambers and it’s actually designed to perpetrate and perpetuate negativity, fear and anger rather than anything happy,” she said.
“It’s contributing to our inability as a community to have a good old-fashioned conversation where we are actually listening to each other,” Helps said.
“Then what’s worse or what’s becoming pervasive is that that kind of anger and outrage doesn’t just remain on the screen.
“We’re starting to see people showing up at public engagement sessions or at city hall full of anger before they have any actual information.”
Helps is also concerned that social media and cellphone use are “incredibly addictive.”
Some research is showing that they might be actually shrivelling brains, she said, citing a study that found an average person touched their phone 2,617 times a day — of which 15 per cent were for Facebook.
“So we are all always distracted and I think that that makes it really difficult to focus on the big issues that are facing us,” she said.
“If we’re just always distracted, we’re not going to be able to solve the big challenges and we’ve got lots of big challenges.”
“Scariest of all,” said Helps, is research showing that device-driven multi-tasking “is actually shrivelling our brains. It’s shrivelling the prefrontal cortex or our brains, which is the part of the brain we need for rationality; it’s the part that we need for empathy; it’s the part that we need to kind of connect our social beings,” Helps said.
“I’m really worried about what this pervasive screen use is doing to our collective brain capacity, our collective cognitive capacity.”
Helps acknowledged that her kicking Facebook is not going to solve any of that.
“But I think it’s important to show leadership in areas that need attention,” she said.
Helps plans to officially quit Facebook on Friday evening. She will continue to maintain her home page and will continue to write a blog.
She also will keep her Twitter and Instagram accounts alive for now.
She said there are still lots of ways constituents can reach her, including phone, email, text, Messenger, or at the mayor’s community drop-ins.
“I feel it’s critically important that we can sit down together and talk and listen. I feel that social media in general, and Facebook in particular, actually is diminishing our capacity as humans to engage in civil society and I think that is very worrisome.”
Michael Prince, University of Victoria Lansdowne professor of social policy, noted there are many other social media platforms so he didn’t know whether the decision would hurt Helps in this election year.
He agreed Facebook has become a polarizing forum.
“This idea that the internet was going to usher in a new world of democratic dialogue and greater democratization of public discourse on public issues — I don’t see it.
“I see a lot of noise. I see a lot of anger and very polarized echo chambers,” Prince said.
Prince said he has always found Helps’ blog to be an effective communication tool.