Western Ontario is Facebook Country

facebookTHUNDER BAY – There is a new process underway at City Hall. Mayor Keith Hobbs, through his Facebook page has generated a whole new way of communications with residents of the city. “How come all this showed up on my Facebook page? You’d think I was the Mayor or something! LOL” shared Hobbs on Facebook on Saturday.

Does it matter?

Time Magazine has just named Mark Zuckerberg as their “Man of the Year”.

The magazine states, “Facebook has merged with the social fabric of American life, and not just American but human life: nearly half of all Americans have a Facebook account, but 70% of Facebook users live outside the U.S. It’s a permanent fact of our global social reality. We have entered the Facebook age, and Mark Zuckerberg is the man who brought us here.”

Thunder Bay has worked toward a “Knowledge-based” economy for years. Part of the process is effective use of new communications tools, like the Internet. There are across Western Ontario plenty of Facebook users. 

In Kenora there are 5,300 people 18 and older on Facebook, in Dryden there are 6940 people on Facebook who are 18 and older. In Thunder Bay there are 67,680 people on Facebook over the age of 18.  When you consider there are just over 15,000 people in Kenora, 8100 in Dryden, and 109,000 in Thunder Bay those are significant numbers.

Unlike the earlier years of Facebook that figure does not represent just younger people anymore. In Thunder Bay, 36,640 of the Facebook users are over 35. In Kenora there are 2,900 Facebook users over 35, and in Dryden it is 4,080 people on Facebook who are over 35.

When Hobbs started campaigning last spring, he also ramped up his Facebook presence.

So too had Ken Boshcoff, and Andrew Foulds. The City of Thunder Bay has also geared up its Facebook presence.

Politically, it was that online presence, which was very much like an iceberg, mostly out of sight, which helped Hobbs and his army of “Hobbits” win the civic election over incumbent Mayor Lynn Peterson.

Notes on Facebook, and email messages to members of the Hobbs for Mayor group were callouts to volunteers.

The fabric of our region is being forged by changes in technology. It is therefore not unreasonable to suggest that the changes brought by the Internet will change the region massively too.

Politically, it will likely be through his social media presence that Hobbs will be able to keep his finger on the pulse of our community, and on that of his supporters. It may also serve as a barometer for Councillors who are interested in knowing what people in our city are interested in having done.

Some of the members of City Council will have to step up their online presence to more fully engage residents. That is very likely to start happening over the coming several years. After all, the usual process in the political arena is that the people take the lead, and the politicians follow.

As the use of social media increases in Western Ontario, it is likely that more of the political leaders will be engaging their constituents via Facebook, Twitter, or email. The scope of the Internet for politicians to seek input from the people who they represent is massive. When you consider the size of ridings in our region, politicians have a great deal of distance to travel just to visit all parts of their ridings.

Through the Internet, those kinds of communications would be faster, easier and in many cases more environmentally friendly too.

The founder of Facebook might be Time Magazine’s “Man of the Year” but for Western Ontario, it is likely that it is the use of his product that has made more of an impact.

James Murray