Let’s Chat About Civil Discourse in Social Media

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Welcome friends, pull up a chair and pour yourself a ‘Cup of Joe’ and let’s chat a little about civil discourse in social media…

First of all, on behalf of all of us at Biz X magazine, I extend to you and all your loved ones the very best for 2017. May it be a prosperous, safe and healthy year for you.

We find ourselves just two weeks away from the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, President-elect Donald Trump. Regardless of your position on him, his values or policies, he will be the President of the United States for at least the next four years. To say the presidential campaign of 2016 was the most tumultuous, hyperbolic, and contentious campaign in recent US presidential history, is an understatement.

Emerging from this campaign, however, is an expression that has totally captivated me. It was used frequently by President Obama as he stumped for Hillary Clinton. In his frequent responses to many of the comments and statements made by ‘the Donald’, Obama would intone “C’mon, Man” with a vocal expression of incredulity, frustration and exasperation. I have just recently discovered that Obama’s “C’mon, Man” was appropriated by him from ESPN’s popular sports recap show.

C’Mon, Man, though gender specific, applies equally to both genders.

Where I find myself using this expression is in my response to so many the things I read in social media. I believe in good and wholesome dialogue – the free exchange of ideas and views. It is the right of all in a democratic society. But that dialogue should be rooted in fact, expressed with civility and offered for the purpose of enhancing or advancing social issues. Too many Facebook posters earn a big C’Mon, Man from me when these three principles are ignored.

Let me illustrate this with a couple of examples that originated with Windsor Star stories, and the readers’ comments they engendered on Facebook, one before Christmas, and one in the first week of this new year.

A few weeks before Christmas, the Director and the CEO of the Windsor Downtown Mission, Ron Dunn, penned an article of support for Windsor’s proposed Mega-Hospital location and revamping our regional healthcare system.

Here is part of why he supports this project: “If the plan consisted of just one element, the new hospital to replace both acute care sites (Windsor Regional Hospital’s current Metropolitan and Ouellette campuses), I would question whether it would meet the needs of citizens throughout Windsor, in particular those we see at The Downtown Mission each and every day, who represent some of our community’s most vulnerable and marginalized individuals.

I was delighted to learn that the project entails so much more than just a fancy new acute care site. According to the extensive materials posted at windsorhospitals.ca, the project identifies some $300 million in investment to the city’s core, which represents much needed new health care infrastructure.”

And for expressing his opinion, Dunn was assailed in Facebook postings (re. Windsor Star Letter) and on the CAMPP (Citizens for an Accountable Megahospital Planning Process) Facebook page. I read the negative comments of some of the posters who vehemently disagreed with Dunn and who threatened to withhold future donations and contributions to the Windsor Downtown Mission because of his position. All I could say was C’Mon, Man!

Just because you disagree with him you are willing to punish the needy and the most vulnerable in our community? How petty and how disgraceful. I suspect that many of the posters making these threats of retribution have probably never donated to, or helped fund, the Windsor Downtown Mission. Their threats reminded me of the expressions: ”throwing the baby out with the bathwater” and “cutting off your nose to spite your face”.

This was not the first time the anti-Mega-Hospital crew took exception to a social agency organization who disagreed with them. Months before, The Windsor Alzheimer Society experienced a similar backlash. Can we not agree to disagree without threats of retribution, boycott and paybacks?

More recently a ‘huuuge’ C’Mon, Man was earned by some responders to the Windsor Star’s January 3rd. article by Mary Caton regarding the local contingent of women (and men) planning to attend the Women’s March on Washington D.C., a day after the inauguration of Donald Trump as President of the United States. Whoa! What audacity these Windsorites are demonstrating by crossing the border to support their southern and brothers and sisters.

Pat Papadeas, local coordinator for the march, explained to the Star their purpose for engagement: “For those of us who watched the antics and heard what was said by the person who was running for president and is now the president-elect, we heard things as women that make us shudder,” Papadeas said. “Things we thought we were well past. This is a set back as far as how we are perceived.”

I invite you to review the January 3rd. Windsor Star article on this matter and to read the subsequent comments posted. You will quickly see why many of the posters deserve a big C’Mon, Man.

The criticisms came from both genders and took the local women to task for such things as “overlooking our own Canadian and provincial concerns, problems and issues” and “interfering in another country’s politics”. The rhetoric they voiced was an embarrassment to themselves and an assault to logical and reasoned discourse. I got so frustrated with a few of these posters that I posted “NEWS ALERT:  Mark, Rob and Mark … please contact the authorities immediately. Three villages are reporting their idiots missing!”

So my friends, perhaps at the beginning of this new year we can all resolve to keep in mind that in our social media banter we strongly attempt to have our exchange of thoughts and ideas “rooted in fact, expressed with civility and offered for the purpose of enhancing or advancing social issues”.

In doing so, we can change C’Mon, Man to ‘Atta Boys’!

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Joe McParland
Joe retired January 2015 as a Superintendent from a 26 year career with the Canada Border Services Agency in Windsor. Since then he has jettisoned into a number of exciting new opportunities. Joe is in his 13th year as a volunteer with TVCogeco as their on air personality at Windsor City and Essex County Council Meetings, and his 11 years as a registered Ontario Marriage Officiant. Joe now shares his talents and numerous life experiences with Biz X as a regular blogger, columnist and any other “Joe – Jobs” we can find for him.