Off Script: Ditching the digital water cooler

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I may be a glutton for punishment, but I enjoy a good meeting. The challenge of writing up agendas, policies, handbooks — bring it on. Not everyone enjoys sitting through a meeting though, and I don’t blame them. Unless you’re involved or really passionate about the cause — it’s not always enjoyable. However, the public input session at public meetings are a great place to take a stand and make a statement about something you like or maybe don’t like. I have a grumble with social media. It has given a place for people to have a say, but isn’t the correct way to make an impact where it matters most. On one hand, I’ve pioneered in the social media business industry and even made a career as a social media specialist. It helped me bring in an income on numerous occasions, between jobs and community projects. It helps to keep me connected with friends and family I might not otherwise get a chance to communicate with. It gives individuals a place for artistic expression, to ask advice and get recommendations. It provides a way to share ways to help support friends, family and organizations. I’ve signed up for many Meal Train dinner opportunities through friends on social media. On the other hand, social media platforms have become the place where people go to gripe, quibble and put businesses and individuals on blast. It’s a digital water cooler that is shared with the public. Keyboard warriors go online to make a statement about something, and then receive judgment (not always in a constructive way) from the community and sometimes even the international social sphere. I believe that in our community more people should take the time to speak out during public input at meetings instead of just going straight to social media. That may mean preparing ahead of time and putting effort into filling out a form or even — gasp — putting pants on and speaking in front of an audience. Currently, Winters residents can still attend these meetings by Zoom for both city council and the Winters Joint Unified School District. My favorite part of any of these meetings is when there is a public input comment.  Whether or not I agree with the statement, I have great respect for those who have the courage to speak out about their perspective on something in a public setting, and not to placate the popular opinion. (If only I could convince them to also submit a letter to the editor or write their own op-ed column. Hint. Hint.) There are still a lot of decisions to be made and feedback to give our local government agencies and boards. They cannot make changes if they do not know what they are. Airing grievances on social media isn’t an effective way to make an impact on their decisions. I throw out the challenge to the community to attend one of these meetings (in person or virtually) and submit a public input piece about something. You can still post it to Facebook, but please, make the effort to have a public say where it matters. And continue to make noise until you see fit to stop.

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