Denise Etheridge Column Teaser

Have I mentioned lately that I really hate social media? I fear it makes people simultaneously mean-spirited and thin-skinned, not to mention the risk of allowing the misinformed to spread faulty information.

It seems to me that a lot of the folks who frequent group Facebook pages that are meant for civil public discourse leave out being civil entirely. Some of these regulars are brutal in their critiques. A few even forego solid facts and instead focus on character assassination. I don’t understand why these individuals go out of their way to make other people angry about a multitude of topics, most often the latest political brouhaha.

That said, I wish more people would engage in the democratic process. I applaud those who physically show up to City Council/­county Board of Commissioners/school board meetings. I’d like to see more of our readers express their opinions and pen a letter to the editor. Citizens should question their representatives and ask how their tax dollars are being spent. Residents can call their representatives and meet with them in person.

I encourage friends and family to vote, no matter their party. I admire individuals who brave public opinion — both positive and negative — to run for an elected office. It isn’t easy for candidates or elected officials to willingly put themselves out there, placing their reputations under a microscope.

It’s one thing to ask hard questions about someone’s stance on future development. It’s another to invite elected officials to engage on social media group pages and then hit that person with a barrage of incivility. It is often a no-win situation.

Last week, one of the administrators of the group page, Concerned Citizens for Loganville Growth, posted an email he received from Loganville Mayor Rey Martinez. Greg Peoples addressed Martinez and the entire City Council last week about the email, apparently sent from the mayor’s official city email address. Peoples posted the email to the Concerned Citizens page on Sept. 24.

Peoples was upset about the email, and demanded the mayor apologize. He also asked the council to censure Martinez over the email.

I believe the man has every right to comment publicly. But, in my opinion some of what Peoples described regarding the content of the email was exaggerated.

To be honest, I thought the mayor’s email was somewhat incoherent and rambling. Was it insulting? Peoples certainly thought so. (As did Terry Parsons, who is running for Loganville City Council and was mentioned in the email.)

Was the email threatening? I didn’t think so, and neither did the city attorney. Should the mayor have sent this particular email to Peoples? No, probably not. A courteous and brief phone call would have better served both the mayor and Mr. Peoples.

Or, Martinez could have emailed Peoples and left out references to the gentleman’s attire and family. The mayor also could have avoided commenting on Parsons’ artwork depicting his vision for a revitalized downtown.

The point is, too many of us are getting caught up in perceived slights and innuendos instead of concentrating on facts. Respectful discussion spurs understanding.

Elected officials should remain calm and polite when interacting with their constituents. Citizens should express themselves with decorum.

We need to stop shouting at each other, whether we voice our opinions in person or online.

Denise Etheridge is a staff writer for The

Walton Tribune. Her email address is denise.etheridge@waltontribune.com.

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