What follows are more questions than answers...
Search engines and social media sites play a central role in building one’s reputation online. This statement is all the more evident in our current provincial election. To date, there have been four candidates that have been dropped, including a campaign manager. I will not get into naming parties, as if you are interested (or haven't already heard about the events below), that information is readily available online. This post is not intended to be partisan.
Undoubtedly, it is the responsibility of every person to demonstrate good citizenship. Notice I did not specify "digital" citizenship, as those who wish to lead our province ought to being upstanding citizens regardless of the spaces they find themselves in (online and offline). However, what is becoming more and more apparent in the first week of this election season is that online behaviour is deriving higher consequences than offline behaviour. For example, candidates with DUI convictions (sometimes multiple convictions) are being supported in continuing their campaign, while others who have posted questionable or offensive remarks online are being dropped from the race. Why is this the case? Is one behaviour worse than the other? Certainly one behaviour put the lives of others at risk, but the consequence in this election is less severe. When we consider supporting a particular candidate, do we assess their online and offline citizenship equally? As Nathan Jurgenson says, the two are inherently enmeshed.
While we tend to be forgiving of past offline behaviour (i.e. a DUI conviction from 10 years ago), the Leader-Post reports that "Saskatchewan voters aren’t so forgiving about offensive or embarrassing posts made by candidates on social media, according to new poll numbers from Mainstreet for Postmedia." Why do we not extend the same forgiveness to past online behaviour? Should the life expectancy of accountability/consequence be any different? According to this survey, "59 per cent of respondents would be less likely to vote for a candidate with a questionable social media history." When it comes to questionable social media history, do we consider the time, context, and social conditions in which the post was made? Do we consider whether there was one post demonstrating misjudgement or a pattern of posts that demonstrate misjudgement? If someone is remorseful for a mistake made online--particularly when it was just one post/tweet--is it reasonable to hold that person accountable for a lifetime? Are we really to believe that the candidates who run their campaigns the full term of the election have demonstrated perfect citizenship during the course of their lives? I think it's more likely they just didn't get caught. We all make mistakes… if one is remorseful and positively evolves from them, then that ought to be taken into consideration--don't you think?
I'm also wondering why the questionable behaviour of these candidates is only exposed after the election is officially called. Why the wait? If a party is genuinely concerned about the integrity of a candidate in an opposing party, why wait until the election starts to bring it out in the open? Personally, I believe it is less about genuine concern regarding a leader's integrity and more about using someone else's transgressions for personal/collective gain. It sounds more like a competitive political game of who can dig up the most dirt… a social media witch hunt if you will. I also assume that some candidates are more savvy than others when it comes to "decontaminating" their social media (i.e. filtering through and deleting everything that one does not want to surface during an election).
Leaders are talking about robust vetting processes... so I'm wondering what an ideal vetting process looks like. What does an intelligent and fair vetting process look like to you?
Teacher & Tech Coach with Regina Catholic Schools. Passion for EdTech, 21st century student-centered pedagogy, connected learning & differentiated instruction. Grad student.