Editor's note: The Chief's weekly editorial reflects the official opinion of the newspaper.
It is a rainy weekday in Squamish. At a local downtown Squamish lunch spot, the staff behind the counter are chatting in Greek with a customer. Laughter breaks out intermittently. The café is packed.
An “elder statesman” of the local rock-climbing world sits at a nearby table chatting with a fellow climber decades his junior. The men flail their arms, seemingly sharing “best climb” stories.
A young couple at another table is in the midst of a passionate but respectful discussion about the upcoming muni election.
Suddenly, everyone in the eatery looks up as a soaking wet middle-aged woman bursts through the door dripping wet and smiling. Most in the room smile back and return to their conversations.
This cafe is the microcosm of Squamish — diverse, tolerant, engaged and pleasant.
But open up a laptop while sitting in this same café and log on to any of the local Facebook groups and an entirely different town appears.
Under posts — and sometimes in them — words like “idiot” and “disaster” are thrown around in equal measure with serious accusations of corruption levelled at local politicians and candidates.
The stomach tightens while scrolling these pages. The exchanges are often nothing short of vile.
Don’t think it is so bad? Go to one of these pages and imagine you don’t live in Squamish: all you know of this place is from what you read and see on our social media.
Would you want to move here? Would you even want to visit? Not likely.
Frankly, online we come off as angry, spiteful and completely lacking in compassion.
We can do better, but it is not likely we will. This isn’t the first time bad online behaviour has come up in this town.
We all know how to be civil. Some just choose not to.
The thing is, this election comes at a critical time in our history and the vitriol online could colour voters’ choice of who will lead us in municipal hall.
So, we challenge our readers to log off of local social media pages for three days this upcoming week.
Pick any three days.
We aren’t saying don’t go online — we are saying go to the candidates’ pages, read your local paper (later this week we are publishing videos of each candidate as well as their answers to our online survey). Get out, if you can, and attend our all-candidates’ forum on Oct. 1 — meet the candidates.
See if what you see and hear away from social media changes what you think about each candidate.
Also, think about what makes a good local government representative. Yes, they should be able to sell themselves online and off, but being an effective campaigner, quick with wit on social media, doesn’t necessarily make someone a representative who is best for the community day in and day out in council chambers.
Make sure the slick and the rubbish on social media isn’t muddying who you will pick to lead us — too much is at stake.