Social media bogging down political discourse, says Kelowna councillor - InfoNews

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Social media bogging down political discourse, says Kelowna councillor

Ryan Donn
Image Credit: SUBMITTED/Facebook
July 05, 2019 - 7:00 AM

KELOWNA - Kelowna Coun. Ryan Donn may be the most active on social media of any of his political peers, regularly posting his thoughts upcoming decisions or applications.

He often solicits input on issues in an effort to better understand the mood of the electorate.

But, last week, he turned off the messaging option of his Facebook page and suggested people email him instead.

“The action that led to my post was someone messaging to me every half-hour with pictures taken on her phone of our most vulnerable population, whether they be homeless or whether they don’t have a place to stay,” Donn told

“On a private message, you reply the first few times saying there’s this option to call if this happens or this option to call if that happens. Here’s the big picture plan.

“But, really, it was more of a harassment thing. She didn’t want responses. She wanted me to make people disappear. Or she thought this was her way of changing the world to message non-stop over a five-day period. Thus, my post saying, 'hey, I’m going to turn off my messages.' Reasonable dialogue was not happening so let’s try to meet people face to face."

In the post, Donn said he was thinking of shutting down his social media but today, July 4, he said he’s just dialling things down a bit.

As a Kelowna city councillor, he estimates he needs to put in 20 hours a week attending meetings, reading reports and attending some community events. Social media is adding hours a week to that part of his life. On top of that, he has a job and a family.

While he’s tried to respond to all messages, he’s finding the sheer volume is getting to be unmanageable, not to mention the tone. Fewer people are inclined to take the time to email.

“Sometimes it just feels good to have a quick rant on Facebook versus putting an hour into a well thought out crafted (email) piece that considers all the other angles,” Donn said. “I think, when I do talk to people, they’re a little more balanced with their understanding and their expectations of what they expect from me.”

He’s received a few emails.

He's also received a few calls after someone involved in the current campaign against the McCurdy Road supportive housing project posted all the phone numbers of city councillors.

Those calls were from leaders of the opposition efforts.

But it’s not just the current concern over homelessness and the McCurdy Road project that prompt a response.

Donn got a huge number of responses to questions about cannabis shops. They were overwhelmingly in favour of them and mirrored comments that were later made in public hearings, so he was able to gauge the feelings in the community on an issue he was initially unsure about.

People were also riled up about the new tourism centre on the waterfront and sidewalk busking.

But the social media campaigns are escalating to the point that it’s beyond the ability of a part-time councillor to handle.

“Does the public want full-time councillors?” he said.

He posted that he would be open for a “coffee with a councillor” night but can’t see how that works when 50 people respond. Maybe a gathering in a park might work, he said.

“I’m open to ideas,” Donn said. “If we keep going the way we’re going, we’ll lose people running for council. We’ll lose people being engaged. We’ll lose people responding to emails. I get worried for our political system.”

In the meantime, he has turned messaging back on but he’s ready to shut it off again, without any warning post, if he sees the need.




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News from © InfoTel News Ltd, 2019
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