Whilst I understand the importance of keeping you all informed and updated on my work as one of your County Councillors, I can no longer continue to engage with the public on a platform that has become increasingly toxic and negative. The very British values of politeness, patience, and empathy that we hold dear are under threat, and it is our duty to safeguard them.
The negative impact of social media platforms like Facebook on mental health has been widely studied. According to a survey conducted by the Royal Society for Public Health, social media use is linked to increased rates of anxiety, depression, poor sleep quality, and body image concerns. Furthermore, a report by the Committee on Standards in Public Life highlights the negative impact of social media abuse on the mental health of politicians and the potential impact on public trust in democracy.
In addition, a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center found that 41% of American adults have experienced some form of online harassment, with political views being one of the most common reasons for harassment. Incivility on social media can also have a negative impact on democratic participation, as people who experience incivility are less likely to engage in political discussions online or offline, according to a study by the University of Cambridge.
Therefore, I have decided to take a step back and re-evaluate how I engage with the public. I will now be posting local updates and information here on my personal website, using this blog format. I welcome your comments on my posts, subject to common moderation practices. It is important to note that fake profiles do not give one the right to abuse others, and we have all seen how fake profiles and bots are used by those with nefarious intentions, including those who seek to undermine our democracy – even locally. In fact, according to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center, 41% of American adults have experienced some form of online harassment, with political views being one of the most common reasons for harassment. Therefore, we must all be vigilant in ensuring that our online discussions are conducted with civility and respect.
As we all know, fake profiles and bots are often used by those with nefarious intentions, including those who seek to undermine our democracy – even locally. I recall having to thwart Russian-sourced interference on the topic of local 5G radio masts in Redditch only a few years ago. These threats to our democracy must not be taken lightly, and we must all do our part to combat them.
Furthermore, the negative impact of Facebook on my own mental health, and the mental health of society as a whole, cannot be ignored. It is time for me to walk away from this platform and return to a style of openness and accountability that is less angry. I look forward to engaging with you – the real you – on my personal website.
As we move forward, I urge you all to recognise the importance of civility and respectful discourse in our society. Let us all work together to safeguard the very British values that make us great.