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Neighbourhood social media campaign is simple bullying

By: Victoria Paterson

  |  Posted: Saturday, Jun 28, 2014 06:00 am

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Imagine if you will, a local student parking his older, somewhat rusty bicycle where his peers can see it.

That there’s nothing really wrong with the bike – it’s got a bit of rust, some slight body damage and it’s old – and it’s parked in a permissible location should be of note.

But his peers don’t like the looks of the bike and believe it interferes with their enjoyment and use of the same space.

They speak to the principal, who says there’s nothing wrong with where the student is leaving the bike.

So the students take to social media where they anonymously try to shame the bike owner into leaving his bike somewhere else – even publishing his name, address, photos, maps of where he leaves the bike and even, hopefully jokingly, suggest graffiti artists could decorate the bike.

They say on their blog that they won’t stop their social media campaign until the bike is gone, be it through sale, being moved to a place they deem more appropriate or the principal taking it away permanently.

It’s not a stretch to call that bullying. And if kids were going online to harass their peers about an older bike with some rust, there likely would be stern lectures about cyberbullying if their parents found out.

Unfortunately, such a situation is underway in Woodlands. Except it’s not kids, an old bike and a principal. It appears to be adult residents, an older truck and city staff.

In recent weeks, a Twitter account and Wordpress blog have appeared, as the authors are incensed that the owner doesn’t have room in his garage or driveway to park what they deem an “eyesore.”

As in the hypothetical above, they have published the truck owner’s name, his address, photos, maps of where he likes to park his truck and contemplated in a tweet if any graffiti artists might like to decorate the truck despite the fact, as long as the truck is moved every 72 hours, it’s parked legally.

Street parking is always a sensitive issue and can be sticky to navigate. However, it’s not apparent that what the blog acknowledges is “public shaming” is a good method to address these issues, especially when municipal enforcement has already been contacted.

But I’m utterly convinced that a public social media campaign like this isn’t a creative solution, or a good use of indignation.

This isn’t city politics, this isn’t a war of ideals. This is a person or people taking out their irritation in an inappropriate way.

The appropriate way is to go to bylaw – as they’ve done – and if that doesn’t work, perhaps pursue a citywide parking bylaw revamp with their elected officials.

I think we’d all like to live a life so untroubled that a neighbour parking a vehicle thought to be unsightly for long periods of time is the height of ones’ problems.

It’s tough to see the attacks on the truck, and its owner, as anything other than a case of neighbourly cyberbullying.

Is attempting to humiliate your neighbours online really the kind of community building the residents of St. Albert want to pursue?

Cause if it is, it’ll make for an awkward block party.

Victoria Paterson is a reporter for the St. Albert Gazette.


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