Manitoba·Video commenting

'Nothing's held back': Manitobans in the public eye experience range of rudeness on social media

Althea Guiboche, a well known anti-poverty activist in Winnipeg, says 'block and delete' work wonders.

Personal attacks on social media 'stay with you,' says former Winnipeg Blue Bomber Obby Khan

Public figures in Manitoba say they've experienced racist and personal attacks on social media, and have even been sent objectionable images of body parts. (The Canadian Press/CBC)

Do public figures deserve more respect? Tell us what you think in a video comment in our new Good Talk experiment.

Althea Guiboche, a well known anti-poverty activist in Winnipeg, says "block and delete" work wonders.

Known as "the Bannock Lady" for handing out bannock to homeless people, Guiboche had some interesting encounters with people on social media when she ran for the Liberals in Manitoba's 2016 provincial election.

"What are you going to do for us flood victims, besides throw us a piece of bannock," Guiboche said, recalling what one voter said to her during the campaign.

When she suggested the man talk to her in a respectful manner, Guiboche said his response was that she was a politician and she had to take it.

"And I said, 'No, as an Indigenous woman, I do not,'" she said. "And then, you know, he said, 'Well, you lost my vote.' I said that's fine."

'If they think they're anonymous, they're not civil at all,' said Althea Guiboche, who ran for the Liberals in the 2016 provincial election. (CBC)

CBC Manitoba recently spoke with Guiboche as part of the series The Loss of Civility, exploring issues of rudeness and civility.

"If they think they're anonymous, they're not civil at all," she said. "They make outrageous comments, very racist, showing their true character when they think no one's looking."

Personal attacks

Former Winnipeg Blue Bomber offensive lineman Ibrahim "Obby" Khan took a lot of hits on the field during his career in the Canadian Football League. But some of what's been thrown his way on Twitter has been hard to shake off.

Khan, who's a member of Winnipeg's Muslim community, said he has dealt with some nasty comments about his faith and also about his community work.

"When they're personal attacks, those sting a lot harder and they stay with you," Khan said.

Former Blue Bomber Obby Khan says he has endured nasty comments about his Muslim faith and his community work on social media. (The Canadian Press)

"Why would someone go on social media and say something so negative, so nasty about someone they don't know?" he asked.

"What does that say to us as a society, as a group of people?"

But while he has dealt with some negative comments, Khan said the majority of his encounters with people online have been positive.

Quitters come back, expert says

For Winnipeg city councillor Janice Lukes, just checking her Facebook feed can be quite the experience.

"I've had pictures that you wouldn't believe sent to me, of body parts," the South Winnipeg-St. Norbert councillor said.

"Nothing's held back."

City Coun. Janice Lukes says she's even had pictures of body parts sent to her via social media. (Gary Solilak/CBC)

Because nothing is held back these days, we've seen some celebrities, including Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, quit social media platforms like Instagram.

And they're not the only ones. You may have seen someone in your Facebook network make a proclamation that they are leaving because they've had enough.

Brett Caraway, who teaches media studies at the University of Toronto, has seen that among his Facebook friends. But he said eventually, they all came back.

"I've never seen any of them leave permanently," Caraway said.

"I think that speaks to how it's hard to actually opt out of these platforms," he said.

"At a certain point, we as a society, a culture, we integrate these technologies so thoroughly into just our normal daily practice that to refuse them puts you culturally, socially, even politically on the margins."

So how do we get along in this virtual world that's so intertwined with our real lives, knowing nasty encounters can be part of the deal?

Khan believes part of the answer involves taking a stand when we see negative, hurtful or racist comments.

"We have to stand up and tell people that it's not OK to do that stuff on social media," he said.

"Just like you would stand up if someone was bullying a kid on the playground."

Listen to CBC's Information Radio Monday at 7:40 a.m. for a conversation about rudeness in social media, as part of CBC Manitoba's series The Loss of Civility.

CBC News is partnering with GoodTalk, a new engagement tool that lets Canadians watch and record video comments on top stories and even get featured on the CBC. Follow the links to try it out.