Editorial: Anti-social media allows our opinion, bias, and prejudice to shine

Last Thursday, Morinville schools and residents gathered to recognize French culture.

The Alberta government has proclaimed March as Alberta Francophonie Month in the province, complimenting the annual Rendez-vous de la Francophonie celebrations taking place across Canada from March 1-21.

As part of that celebration, the Franco-Albertan flag was raised above many communities in honour of the cultural celebrations.

What is the Franco-Albertan flag you might ask? Jean-Pierre Grenier created the flag as part of a contest held by Francophonie jeunesse de l’Alberta n 1982.

The flag has a white fleur-de-lys, the symbol of France, a wild rose, the symbol of Alberta, and two white and blue diagonal stripes that symbolize the crossing of rivers and roads by the first French-Canadian pioneers who settled in the province.

It’s been around a long time. It’s been raised annually for a long time. The flag takes on a new significance this year because it was deemed a Symbol of Distinction under the Emblems of Alberta Act.

This publication began in 2010 and we have covered this cultural celebration annually, as we have Oktoberfest, the Treaty Six flag raisings, Alexander Pow Wow, the raising of the Pride flag, and just about everything else that goes on in town.

Last week, for the first time, the simple gesture of live streaming the raising of the Franco-Albertan flag in the midst of French Immersion students resulted in calls to speak English or move back to Quebec, comments that Alberta is English and not French, and others best left unsaid.

A couple of facts – In 2016, the last federal census, there were more than 268,000 Albertans that speak French, and more than 418,000 Albertans of French/French-Canadian descent. Additionally, Alberta also has one of the fastest-growing Francophone populations in Canada and one of the largest French-speaking populations in the country, outside of Quebec. Add to that the fact Morinville was founded by a French priest and French and German settlers, and you have pretty good justification for recognizing those roots and that population within our community.

At the end of the thread, I encouraged readers to read all the comments to their children that night and apologize for our collective buffoonery.

We need to pull our collective heads out of our collective posterior orifices and really and honestly take a look at how we interact and interconnect as a society.

In 1992, when the Internet was in its infancy, no one could envision spending much time if any on the Internet. Now we’re on it all the time. And when we aren’t, we’re drawn back to it by a ping, a ding or a ring, usually, because someone has challenged or supported our opinion.

It is a Pavlovian response because we thrive for the drama and attention, it seems.

Back in the 1990s, if you wanted drama, you turned on a soap in the afternoon. You didn’t look at a four-inch screen to see if your so-called friend was having a crappier day than you and hoping to hell they did so you could feel a little better about your own miserable life.

Back then we still spoke to one another, looking each other in the eye when we did so. Now we eat lunch together, drawn from our food to our little plastic boxes – looking to see who commented on our post, liked our latest cooking experiment (something this writer is guilty of) or fell victim to our trolling comment.

It was a day when we could be of different political ideologies and still crack a beer together.

It was also a day when we could look at a news item and thumb our nose at the newscaster or interviewee, maybe yell bullshit at the tv.

We didn’t – thankfully – have the ability to allow ill-informed opinions to be published and given the same credibility as the expert that was interviewed.

We didn’t call it fake news because it was something we disagreed with, and we certainly didn’t waste our time arguing about every single thing with people we do not even know.

We debated with friends and neighbours over a beer or a burger in the backyard. Real friends – not someone you are connected with merely because you clicked a button to allow them into your digital world.

We’ve watched our ability to see both sides of an argument whither away over the past 26 years or so that the Internet has been around. Watched that with increasing rapidity each year and each month.

We’ve become increasingly divided into them and us, and We’ve seen friendships end over the stupidest of things and been guilty of it myself.

We’ve watched this medium push us further and further apart as people, as neighbours, as residents of a community, and citizens of a province, a nation, a world.

But like television or radio before it, it is just a medium. The fundamental difference is that this one allows everyone to participate equally – expert and buffoon alike, and everyone in between.

Our real challenge is managing the signal to BS ratio so that we can separate the good of social media from the bad of anti-social media.


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