Aug 27

Are Our National Leaders Setting a Bad Example for How to Behave?

Have you ever posted something on social media you regretted? Maybe a Tweet or Facebook post? Maybe you’ve even lashed out in anger – or in person?

Social media is a huge part of our lives today. Nearly my entire job relies on computers, so I see a lot of questionable things posted on social media on a daily basis.

Here at Sabo PR, we have a unique model where we are embedded in-house, part-time with different municipalities throughout Kent County. We have team members in Plainfield and Cascade townships and the cities of East Grand Rapids and Kentwood. These team members spend a LOT of time with our friends in local government. We serve as an extension of the municipality and assist with daily communication needs such as social media, newsletters, media relations, resident communications and more.

Since joining SPR last summer, I have seen a noticeable increase in hostility and negativity towards government, both online and in-person. This makes me wonder if the attitudes we see in our national leaders are trickling down to the local level.

Now more than ever, we are seeing our national leaders behave poorly online, constantly disagreeing with each other and setting a bad example for how problems should be solved. Some leaders even feel that social media is an appropriate outlet to express an issue.

This type of behavior has become more common within our municipalities, too – not between staff but instead with residents who come to township or city hall and those who follow us on social media. I’ve witnessed residents scream at employees over something that could be fixed quickly and even threaten others in person and via Facebook.

Is the distrust within our national leadership negatively impacting our local governments?

I wasn’t a local government expert when I started but I quickly realized how much my colleagues truly care about where they work. Each department has a job to do and the vast majority want to do their jobs well. There’s a rhyme and a reason for everything they do or ask, even if it might not be easily recognized.

A few recommendations before you lash out (or post):

  • If you’re too upset to deal with someone in person, walk away and come back later.
  • Posting on Facebook or Twitter is public, and there’s a real person reading and responding to your comments
  • Pretend you’re saying that post to someone’s face – would you do that? Would you want your grandmother to read it?
  • Follow the golden rule: would you want someone saying or doing this to you?

There’s no level of government that touches us more each day than our local city, township or village. Every day, you utilize services that your local government manages — emergency services, sewer maintenance, street repair, snow removal, traffic signs, barking dogs, parks and recreation and more. Think about the way that you interact with representatives from local government, whether that be the assessors, managers, clerks, work crews or police and firefighters and, before you post that unkind remark, remember that they’re always here to help.

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