Social media giant Facebook has done a mammoth job in infiltrating many aspects of our lives. Like anything there are some people who love it and some who hate it. However, a recent example has shown that for individuals wanting their voice heard by government, Facebook is a very useful tool indeed.
Prior to Web 2.0 and Facebook most people let governments know their approval or disapproval at the ballot box. There have always been those who are more active in their communities in regard to speaking out about issues that concern them. However these people faced a far harder task in getting others on board, be it trying to get people along to protests or getting signatures on a petition.
Enter Facebook. The viral power of social media has now changed the way communities talk to government.
The example: Recently Waverley Municipal Council has proposed the construction of a depot on the site of Hugh Bamford Reserve in North Bondi. The project would involve the temporary excavation of much of the park to allow for the depot to be built. Once operational the site would be a hub for trucks, leading to noise and traffic congestion.
The community in North Bondi and its surrounds don’t want the depot and they’ve voted with their keyboards. This group has been created on Facebook specifically to protest against Council’s proposal:
In a short time the group has gained over 2,000 members. They are actively debating the issue and making their thoughts on the project known. Waverley Mayor Sally Betts clearly understands the impact this Facebook group is having. She has joined it herself and posts regularly in its forums to update people on the council’s position. Through the group, residents are replying to her posts and the conversation continues still.
What this all means is that Facebook has moved on from being merely a tool for friends to socialise online. It is now a genuine forum for political debate, and a very effective tool for communities to come together quickly, engage and speak about issues that affect them.
In days gone by the media was necessary to inform the people of what the government was doing, so that democracy could function. Now social media has entered the mix – to inform governments about what the citizens think – so that democracy can function even more effectively.
This is, indeed, a brave new world.