Another virus lurks in Gulf Islands communities
By Jennifer Margison
After coming to Galiano Island 15 years ago, my husband and I quickly became aware of how divisive local issues could be on a small island.
As part-time residents for some of those years, it was easier to avoid becoming involved or being impacted. But Galiano worked its magic spell on us and we made the decision to live here full time. We now have good friends and volunteer involvement in the community. Being surrounded by nature and growing some of our own food are comforts in this chaotic world.
I value our local social media for the information about local doings or its ability to generate help for people when they need it: picking up a prescription in town, finding items you need without having to leave the island, getting help when sick or injured or in cases of wind and snow storms. Island people really step up in those situations.
However, I want to comment on what I see as another insidious virus besides COVID-19 gaining a foothold on Galiano and perhaps in other island communities, one that I think is impacting and infecting our civil discourse, our ability to hold different opinions and to communicate those views without making it about the person rather than the issue. I am speaking of how I see our local social media increasingly be used in a way to shame, blame and shun, to divide the community and to stifle exploring divergent views.
I have recently experienced this personally because I am known to hold a particular point of view on a current issue. I became the subject of derogatory and false accusations on a local Facebook site, Galiano X. Other people joined in by “liking” or otherwise supporting these posts.
I have attempted to address these posts directly with the writers. My messages were either not responded to or my requests to meet were refused. It appears easy to slander someone online but not to do so face to face. I consider it the most cowardly form of communication.
It is tempting to explain or defend oneself on the same media platform. But this only generates more attacks. I am not normally a fearful person, but reading insulting comments or lies about oneself on social media in a small community is a deeply disturbing experience. I know of others who in witnessing such behaviour or in being the subject of such attacks themselves are now afraid to voice their views. They are intimidated into silence to protect themselves and their reputations.
I contacted the Galiano X administrator to discuss his responsibility to prevent use of this site to personally disparage people. Facebook does have a “bullying and harassment policy” for its pages and groups, prohibiting posts targeting private individuals “with negative character or ability claims.” I feel my complaint was met with indifference and the only action taken of which I am aware was to delete me as a member of the site.
Is this really the kind of community in which we want to live? Is this the behaviour we want to model for our young people? Have we learned nothing by what has gone on south of our border, where falsehoods and insults have taken the place of reasonable discussion and debate?
We all hold different views on many things. Through inquiry, through talking to one another rather than invoking mob mentality, rushing to judgment based on little or false information and seeing the other as the enemy, we can find out why we disagree, perhaps learn things we did not know before and maybe even find common ground.
Editor’s note: The Galiano X Facebook page administrator told the Driftwood he had a long phone discussion and other communications with the writer, deleted an offending comment from the page and takes his administrator role seriously.