Opinion Column

Unplugging from the anti-social network

Rachel Healy

By Rachel Healy, 24 hours Vancouver

After two years of well-reported research by the Vancouver Foundation — which surveyed nearly 4,000 people from more than 80 ethnic groups — the findings that have been circulating that a third of us find it difficult to make friends in this city and a quarter of us are lonely comes as no surprise.

What seems to have irked the majority of us, however, is Vision Vancouver’s proposal on how to deal with the niggling problem — by creating a 16-member Engaged City Mayor’s Task Force that will spend taxpayers’ money to foster better relationships between … wait for it … taxpayers.

A campaign commitment made by Mayor Gregor Robertson and Co. in the 2011 civic election, the task force would be comprised of people with particular experience in citizen engagement and community building. The goal is to have it operational by December, and its work completed by June.

Coun. Andrea Reimer, who’s behind the project, notes the task force will build on existing studies and won’t carry substantial costs. Critics, meanwhile, seem unanimous, saying it sounds like “a way to have Vision indoctrinate and propagandize residents on the taxpayers’ dime.”

Is this what it has come to, really?

We’re so busy wasting our lives away online — with one billion of us now on social media sites such as Facebook and an obscene two billion users expected by 2014 — that it seems we’ve forgotten what really matters.

Normal people are starting to complain about suffering from something called ‘Facebook fatigue,’ which seems at odds considering just five years ago hardly any of us knew about this thing called social networking. Instead, we actually got out and met each other. Talk about First World problems.

Do our lives feel enriched? Are we any happier – more connected? Apparently not.

One local man has taken a stand, with Coast Mountain driver Brian Revel last month launching his Say “Hi” on the bus campaign in Vancouver.

Oct. 19 marks his second Say “Hi” on the bus day, and all he wants us to do is unplug from the matrix and simply say “hello” on the bus. Easy enough, right?

Well, the group’s Facebook page has only 92 “Likes” of support so far, myself included, which shows how engaged we must really want to be.

Isn’t it time we take control, and today’s the day we look up and make a change all on our own?


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