• Myrna Driedger

A little civility, please...

Originally published in the Canstar Metro and Headliner September 14, 2020

Written by Myrna Driedger

Fall is a time of getting back into the rhythm of things and getting back to normal — whatever that normal may be.

Some of us are going back to school while others are done with summer vacations and focusing once more on work. While this year will be different than any other year due to COVID-19, I’ve been thinking about what we’ve come to accept as normal in some aspects of our lives.

Social media has, over the years, become important in our lives. Some people use it to connect with friends and share memories, others use it to highlight issues that are important to them, and others use it to promote a cause and share their opinions. It’s become an important tool in communication for people, regardless of their profession, age, or technological prowess.

There are so many benefits to social media. Never before have we been more connected all throughout the world than at this moment in time — and that is a wonderful thing. But I can’t talk about social media without also talking about the negatives associated with it.

As Speaker of the Manitoba Legislature, I’ve spent the past four years promoting decorum in the House; we have the luxury of using our words to argue. Even today, other countries resort to violence in political debate. As Speaker, I have always believed that the words we choose and the manner in which we use them is of the utmost importance. Ideas and viewpoints need to be shared respectfully.

In recent years, I’ve seen a dramatic rise in the use of social media to spread negative messages and hatred. I’ve most often seen this directed at women and girls. The anonymity of social media has created an environment in which some people feel entitled to espouse incivility and vitriol.

Where does it end? For a select few, it doesn’t end online. For some, the incivility and low discourse continues into the real world.

We cannot accept this as a normal aspect of social media.

The next generation will grow up in a world inundated by messages on a variety of online platforms. Let’s educate our kids, friends, and neighbours on the lasting damage these negative uses have, let’s support each other, and importantly, let’s use social media to spread positive messages.

Let’s consciously choose to consume healthy media and block the unhealthy.

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