Chris Friel
Bullying Survivor
Male | Brantford, ON   Canada
Tired of being bullied, Friel signs off Twitter
Bullying Type: Emotional
Posted By: PorterO123
2/22/13 6:38 AM
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"I have grown tired of being harassed and bullied on Twitter," Brantford Mayor Chris Friel wrote on the social-media site Wednesday afternoon.

Minutes later, Friel closed his Twitter account, @MayorChrisFriel. Go searching for it today and you'll find a generic Twitter page indicating the account doesn't exist.

Speaking Thursday, Friel said he's taking a hiatus from Twitter.

"I've had enough. It's been unending in the last three to four months," Friel said.

"It was a combination of things. Generally, it's a misunderstanding of something and then people go after you. Twitter lends itself to very terse statements and also a tendency to throw out statements without any validity. If you don't deal with it, it doesn't go away and it becomes a truth."

He said he felt the same way as when someone bullies him in person. In addition, Friel said his children and other youngsters follow his account and some messages sent to him aren't appropriate for that audience.

The decision has brought some interesting reactions in the social-media sphere, as various people who use Twitter in the area and followed Friel learned of his decision.

Many feel the mayor should have a thicker skin and should have used his account to engage with all who contact him. They hold him to a higher account because of his office and expect a tolerance to take critique written in 140-character jabs.

Various comments have reached this desk over the past year when Friel would block Twitter followers, preventing them from reading his messages or sending him a direct message. This behaviour drove them batty.

They said that, by closing his account, Friel "rolled over" when he should have fought back, or at least stood up for his own positions.

There are a few questions I've been struggling with since I noticed Friel had axed his account. Even with his statement Thursday, he may return to the medium in the future.

First, must a mayor in 2013 have a Twitter account? Consider more than half of Brantford council either doesn't have a Twitter account or if they do they don't advertise or use it. While being on Twitter lends itself to the impression everything happens there, it's a very safe guess the majority of voters in the city don't use it and don't follow it.

Governance, good or otherwise, happens every day in Brantford without Twitter.

The second question I come back to is whether a politician is bound to that higher standard of interaction using Twitter than they would be offline. While most who delved into this with me over Twitter since Wednesday disagreed, I don't believe how someone engages on Twitter should be different than how they engage in real life, regardless of office.

If your behaviour means I stop listening to you and avoid personal contact with you in real life, why would I be bound to do so on Twitter?

I haven't yet faced the dilemma of blocking someone on Twitter other than spammers. I simply ignore those who won't converse with me online in the same manner they would over the phone or face-to-face.

Friel's decision to take a hiatus? I wouldn't have made the same decision, but I'm not in his shoes.

He's chosen to remove himself from that environment and for that choice I don't feel the consequences are large or life-changing.

Friel should return to Twitter when he's ready, but he's already admitted he won't run his account the same way- similar to many other politicians and public personalities, it will be run like a brand and not as a personal account with all its personality and foibles.

He admitted mistakes in his approach and he wants to put more thought into that approach before rejoining the service with a mayoral account. The experience and interactivity won't be the same as it was before Wednesday, which is unfortunate because that can be the most powerful element of this social medium.

As a few former followers have said, it's a loss. Let's keep that decision in perspective.

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Story Details

Name: Chris Friel
Age: N/A
Country: Canada
Location: Brantford, ON
Gender: Male
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Profession: Other
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