Nik Butler: Influence of social media on community life

JPCT 120314 S14110969x Nik Butler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141203-095917001

JPCT 120314 S14110969x Nik Butler -photo by Steve Cobb SUS-141203-095917001

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It is time to quote a few words of Oscar Wilde: “If there is anything more annoying in the world than having people talk about you, it is certainly having no one talk about you.”

If you are a protest group then this saying is doubly true. It is why popular community pages on Facebook will see a call to repost from protesting groups, and concerned individuals, in the event they wish to share their time sensitive message.

This in itself can be a minefield of political and dogmatic questions for the administrators of said page. Which is why when I realised my intentions to stand, as an independent district councillor, were to be printed here I felt it would be appropriate for me step down from the role which had only recently been given to me.

A few months ago I stopped being an administrator for the Horsham Facebook page. So it was with great astonishment that in the space of a single week I received two suggestions, one of which involved the attendance of a police officer, that I was still the administrator of that page.

On the one hand my political affiliations were called to question since I had not reposted a comment for the newly formed ‘Save Novartis sportsground’ group and on the other the suggestion, by the police, to remove posts relating to a recent incident.

What this highlights to me is that, from politics to policing, the ongoing discussions in a publicly available platform are considered to be an influential part of community life in Horsham. So much so that it is viewed as both a blessing and curse to those involved in contributing or being the subject of conversations.

What then will that community page bring to the upcoming election? Will candidates and councillors choose to join those conversations or will party lines and whispered suggestions remain the preferred method of conversational control.

It is a question that reaches from the keyboards of Horsham’s Internet users to the notebooks and considerations of the commissioners for the Speaker’s commission on digital democracy; which currently investigates the opportunities digital technology can bring for parliamentary democracy in the UK (search Twitter for #dccengage). From one posted protest question to the aspects of how we interact with ministers and councillors; our ability to communicate and interact is accelerating.

We should take care to avoid being digital dismissive.