Victoria’s mayor is breaking up with Facebook.
Lisa Helps announced her decision to join the growing #DeleteFacebook movement in a blog post on her website Thursday, saying her Facebook page will go dark at midnight Friday morning.
“Over the past few weeks, I’ve been weaning myself off Facebook slowly, just like when I quit coffee,” Helps wrote. “The final step is to close down my Facebook account … It makes me nervous just typing this.
“I wonder how quitting Facebook will impact my relationship with my phone? My time? My sense of self worth?”
The movement to leave Facebook has been building steam in the fallout from the Cambridge Analytica data mining scandal, where that company’s B.C.-born co-founder uncovered how his ideas led to a campaign to use personal information from more than 50 million personal Facebook accounts to help sway the conversation during the 2016 U.S. election.
Christopher Wylie’s strategies were also allegedly used by the Victoria-based data firm AggregateIQ in co-ordination with the Leave campaign in the run-up to Brexit.
The scandal has many people questioning the security of their private information online, and whether social media platforms like Facebook are doing enough to ensure privacy.
Helps doesn’t mention the scandal in her post, instead pointing to various studies that show how social media breeds hostility that has bled into town halls and open houses.
“I’m quitting Facebook so I stop contributing in any way to this cycle of psychological violence where fear and anger get more air time than joy, where opinions become hardened in the absence of facts or dialogue and where division rather than much-needed connection is the norm,” Helps wrote.
LISTEN: Victoria’s mayor joins #DeleteFacebook campaign
In an interview with Global News, Helps expanded on her feelings that social media has negatively changed the overall tone of civil discourse.
“People can say whatever online, people can say whatever to my face, it doesn’t matter,” she said. “The problem isn’t about me or my safety or threats at all.
“The problem is that Facebook is creating a culture where we can no longer, as citizens who have really important issues to discuss, have a civil dialogue about those important issues.”
Helps isn’t the only B.C.-based politician to either cut ties with social media, if only temporarily.
Maple Ridge Mayor Nicole Reed stopped making public appearances and briefly left Facebook in May after numerous threats and harassing comments were made towards her.
A threat made towards Peachland Mayor Cindy Fortin on Facebook in May also has RCMP investigating.
But political analysts say dropping Facebook could negatively affect Helps’ re-election bid, which the mayor announced in January.
“Social media has become a mainstay of political campaigns, so to not be part of that is shutting down a major channel of communication.”
Chow-White said not being on Facebook means Helps will have to rely on the media more to frame her message for her, which could impact her overall image as a candidate, particularly as it appears the choice to leave has nothing to do with privacy concerns raised by the Cambridge Analytica fallout.
“Her claims are not about privacy, it’s not about protecting the public or anything like that,” Chow-White said. “It’s about protecting her, and her only.”
Helps wrote in her blog post that she will still be reachable on her cell phone, through email, or through the biweekly Community Drop-In events in her office.
The mayor is also on Twitter, but didn’t mention in the post whether she’s considered dropping that platform as well, despite her feelings towards social media.
“I look forward to more face to face conversations, less distractions, and keeping my noodle intact,” Helps concluded in her post.
—With files from Kylie Stanton