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Council Corner: Social media has its limits

The position of city councilor, at least in Ashland, can be a very enjoyable task.

The idea, in my view, is pretty simple: to just do the most good for the most people that you can. You can’t please everyone on every issue so you hope the residents of Ashland are understanding of the issues and, given all the information, can somewhat agree on the council’s decisions.

Politics here has always been about networking. Long-term relationships, based on trust, with people from many diverse groups working together on issue after issue. Every issue has different interests and groups but the relationships build and continue.

With the Internet, the ability to reach millions of people is within the reach of everyone. Smartphones, tablets, laptops, the free computer at the library, all allow us to reach the world instantly. Any opinion one can imagine can be found and confirmed with a simple search.

Overall it is a good thing for exchanging ideas and learning of new developments and expanding thought. However, for governance, it has created a whole new way of getting attention to ideas. One can come up with a view or an opinion, start a Facebook page, set themselves up as the administrator, easily reach hundreds of people and, in the end, skew the public representation of any topic. The lack of depth the Internet can provide (when the administrator monitors and censors input and content in support of their view), can give opinions the illusion of being fact with the status even of dogma.

The old ways of developing ideas and working through issues in the public arena and coming up with solutions to problems are still with us. Working these issues and problems have always taken a lot of time, effort and understanding. After all, there are few simple solutions.

Now it takes something else. Besides communicating the issues and informing the public, it also takes an additional campaign to counter all the misinformation, some intentional, that gets posted on social media sites. Another part of the job but it may not be the most efficient use of a councilors time to monitor all the social media sites out there.

What would be better? How about stepping away from the computer for awhile and head downtown? Ashland is a great place any time of the year but this time is particularly enjoyable. The town is lit up, the people are friendly and it is not as crowded as in the summer. Walk around and look at all the “problems,” appreciate what we have here and decide, first-hand, what should be done.

Yes, there are issues. Many of which we as councilors may not see. Send an email or, better yet, call. We are all on the city’s website. Otherwise it may just be a posting on a web page that might not be seen by those elected to represent you. Give it a try and have a great holiday season!

Michael Morris is a member of the Ashland City Council.