Greg Walden sometimes wonders, “Does your mother know you talk that way?” As a former U.S. Congressman for more than two decades representing rural Oregon, Walden has noticed a decline in face-to-face civil discourse. In the above interview, he points to the online world as a cause of the in-person rancor, suggesting that social media is “a cancer on civility.”
Speaking at the 2022 Independent Show, Walden, Chairman of Alpine Advisors, provided his insight to help the attendees as they try to raise awareness of their efforts to bring broadband to rural areas. He encourages ACA Connects and NCTC members to educate their elected representatives. He points out that representatives are not broadband experts but want to learn and want to do the right thing for their constituents.
Walden’s experience as an owner of independent radio stations gave him an edge in terms of having insight into nascent technologies like the Internet. At the same, the hard-knocks experience gained from running a family-business prepared him for his time as a representative of the people.¹
Walden finishes by making the point that “We are the government, all of us…” If we want leaders to be better and more respectful, then we must be as well. This starts with respecting each other’s viewpoints.
Of course, social media sites could add buffers and filters. In a sense, relying on the social media platform tools to improve civility is just a bandage.² As Walden points out, respectfulness starts with “You and me.” Walden’s advice to simply ask oneself whether one’s mother or grandmother would be proud of a particular comment is a smart place to start.
² The Verge has an excellent interview with Matt Mullenweg who talks about the challenges of content moderation on social media. As CEO of Automattic (owner of WordPress.com and Tumbler), Mullenweg is an unsung leader in creating an open source web where everyone can be a publisher (for better or worse).