By Jason Menard
Despite what the cookie-cutter, 70s-esque jingle implies, London is not the City of Opportunity right now. Job losses, civic despair, a fractured council, and an old-and-white reputation have all combined to make the Forest City appear as bleak as its leafless trees.
But London, Ontario does have one thing going for it – hope.
For many years, Londoners have taken a laissez-faire approach to the city. Citizens were content not to stir the pot, let the then-Board of Control and the city’s councilors run the show, and privately gripe about their displeasure.
That, no longer, seems to be the case.
Those who doubt the power and potential of social media need only to look to London Twitter scene to see that there are a number of passionate, dedicated, and – most importantly – active members of the community out there.
The City of Opportunity is slowly becoming the City of Accountability. There are passionate watchdogs out there, backing up their concerns about government activities with facts, statistics, and research – all of which is easily accessible to the community at large thanks to the hyperlinks provided.
There are a number of groups working to improve the standing of the community amongst the country’s innovators. They are sharing information and their time, all in an attempt to give Londoners the tools and resources they need to improve their situation.
Best of all, they represent a widely diverse cross-section of the city. From active youths in their early 20s to long-time community watchdogs in their 50s and 60s, there are a number of Londoners out there discussing the city, debating issues, and presenting opinions from all sides of the political and social spectrums.
All you have to do is look and you’ll find them.
Too many people only follow those on Twitter that they like or who share the same ideals and mentality as themselves. That’s fine, but it leaves no room for growth. I’ve chosen to interact with a number of people: some of whom share my perspectives; others with whom I completely and fundamentally disagree on a number of issues. But that’s the only way we learn and grow.
It’s easy to prove a point when you’re preaching to the converted. And it’s easy to have your own beliefs validated when you only choose to listen to those who believe what you believe. But the true test of any ideal, thought, or solution is not to have it bolstered only by supporters, but to have it blasted by opposition. If your arguments stand up, then you have something that now has a solid foundation upon which it can be developed.
Before London was very much a one-(media) horse town: you had the London Free Press as the sole translator of the community’s efforts. Yes, there were talk radio stations and local TV, but the newspaper was very much the city’s voice for many Londoners. Now? You’ve got dozens of active and intelligent voices, coming together and sharing their ideas and responses. You’ve got engaged and passionate community members asking people to think more about the issues at hand – and holding their representatives accountable for their actions.
It’s only going to get better. Those voices are only going to keep being heard – and they’ll be joined by more and more people for whom social networking is a way of life. Not only will you be able to filter the opinions of the larger media organizations through your own perception of their editorial slant, but you can supplement those ideas with points and counterpoints from community members outside of the newsroom.
And you can join in the conversation. From stay-at-home moms to active community leaders; from business owners to employees; and from people with media backgrounds to armchair commentators the London, ON on-line community is a growing, diverse, and worthwhile community.
It’s time for more Londoners to raise their voices and share their feelings and opinions. And what you’ll read in return?