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Social media engulfs Puerto council but is it a good or bad thing? 

I have been sorting through some old paperwork, you know, the sort of thing you only do when you are really bored, like over Christmas, for instance.

Anyway I came across some newspaper cuttings of my early attempts at this column. I used to keep them then, I don’t know why, for posterity perhaps, I don’t keep them now.

The thing is I was surprised to see that I have been doing this since 2011. To be honest I am amazed that they have put up with me so long. My articles were much shorter then, I obviously had less to say back then. Less to moan about some would say and I won’t disagree, although I prefer to call it constructive criticism, basically the same thing.

Do I moan more now, or is it that there’s more to moan about? I would like to think the latter, but common sense is telling me that there has always plenty to moan about; it was just that in my early days I didn’t really know where to find it. Now I think I am much more town hall savvy and know how to wheedle out the little gems, little titbits previously hidden from me deep within the bureaucracy.

Of course, I have been aided and abetted over time by the dramatic rise in social media and the popularity of the ‘selfie’, a word which I initially thought was meant to be a shortened and more trendy adaptation of the term ‘self portrait’, but a word however, that I now think is more likely to imply self promotion, self importance, or even in the most extreme cases self obssessiveness, if such a term exists. It does, I googled it, although spell-check struggled with it for a while, until I nearly got it right, far too many S’s for my liking.

Social media is a great tool in the right hands, an easy economical way to get news and information to the masses when used in the correct manner, and the Puerto de la Cruz administration welcomed it with open arms and wholehearted embraced it, more especially so, our current town hall incumbents. It was great for a while, through a couple of official town hall sites we were treated to a whole wealth of information, information which had never seen the light of day before, information that was previously only privy to the inner circle , the select few, only those who needed to know. Not any longer, it was all out there for everyone to see and of course it drew both supporters and detractors and unofficial sites were spawned, the ‘we love you, you can do nothing wrong’ group and their alter egos the ‘nothing you do is good enough for us’ gang. I like to think that I sit comfortably on the fence between the two, but I am kidding myself really and recently I find my sympathies and allegiances leaning more to one side. I will leave you to decide which way, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

As I said it was great for a while, information was posted, too much, more often than not, and usually repeated, and supported by a few choice photos designed to enhance the post, to make it easier to get the desired message across. Then it changed, I can’t quite remember when, let’s say about three and a half years ago, if I can’t be more exact. It must have been around the time the new council members were sworn in. I’m sure they must have all been issued with new iphones, because all of a sudden we had information overload, with the majority of it unnecessary. I hadn’t even known the names of many of the previous administration, but I soon learned who the new ones are and could easily recognise them in the street.

The informative posts still flowed thick and fast, and as in the past there were a few relevant photos attached, only now however, alongside them, numerous photos of the ‘appropriate councillor’ or the ‘councillor responsible’ and his or her hangers on, started to appear. Our public servants, voted into office by our good selves, were set to become personalities, minor celebrities if you like, every one of them a potential z lister. The photo opportunity, to coin a phrase, had arrived in Puerto de la Cruz and was about to become a prominent part of council business.

And so it continued at a pace, plenty of information being reported on social media as long as there was an opportunity to promote themselves, and coalition partners were happy to rub shoulders as long as it was information which showed them in a positive light, or at least, what they thought to be in a positive light,. As a consequence any press of a negative nature was left to the opposition to highlight, and therefore more difficult to find. Don’t ever expect Puerto’s town hall to come top of the poll when it comes to transparency.

I have to say it was a big turn off for me, forced to troll through endless photos of the town’s elite to find what I was looking for, but I’ve persevered and have put it down to progress, it is a product of how society is today. However, I am not quite convinced that everybody wants to be continually in the limelight, and am sure the town still has a few public employees working diligently, ok maybe that’s a bit strong, but almost certainly working away in the background not wanting to be noticed.

Yet as this administration has dragged on ( I never realised before just how long four years really is) and their ‘star turn’ as it was, rising tourist numbers year on year, has come grinding to a halt. Now other departments within the town hall, no longer content to cling on to tourism’s apron strings have started pushing to be noticed. So where once everyone was happy to use the generic social media site, this no longer was the case and fractures have started to appear as individual departments started their own sites. Patently aware that the day of reckoning in May 2019 is creeping ever nearer, everyone it seems is jockeying for position, trying their utmost to make themselves appear indispensible, so now instead of just one or two sites, from which to glean my information and material, I am faced with trolling through sports, culture, works, commerce, social, fiestas, security, tourism, and so on (to cover any I missed). If that is not enough to contend with, to bulk out their own sites they then started sharing each other’s posts. Worse still, in my opinion that is, council business is now appearing on individual political party pages, it is now a case of look what we are doing for you our trusting members, and no longer look what the council is doing as a collective. Blatant electioneering if ever I have seen it.

The final nail in the coffin for me as far as the council’s social media use is concerned is the use of video posts, a particular pet hate of mine. There is nothing worse for me than logging into my page feed to be met an ear bashing from some totally inappropriate soundtrack used to support a post. What a turnoff, I can’t hit the ‘off’ button fast enough.

Yes, now there is an obsession with the ‘video post’. At first these were quite amateur, an iphone waved about trying to capture an event, enough to make anyone who suffers from motion sickness begin to feel queasy. More recently however, outside help has been employed, the professional video makers have taken over at the taxpayers’ expense I’m sure, and with the relevant councillor often on screen in the starring role. So now our councillors’ transformation is complete. It may have taken them almost all their four year term, but at last they have arrived. They have gone from plain old Joe Public fresh off the street, to public servant, a position with status, to wannabe minor celebrity and finally to video film star, with the odd foray into local television and radio thrown in for good measure.

But have they done enough for the townspeople of Puerto de la Cruz while they have been carving out their own particular niche. Are we now all their groupies, smitten by the progress they have made? Have all their promises been met? Well, I am sure the rose tinted glasses brigades, who see no wrong, are more than happy, but I am not sure they have done enough to curry favour with the majority. We will find out in May, but at the very least they will have enough to pad out their cv if they are forced to result to job hunting.

I am looking forward to this year, to the forthcoming local elections. Politics in general throughout Europe is in turmoil, but will that be reflected in little old insignificant Puerto de la Cruz. Will PP be able to consolidate on their successes of 2015? Will PSOE the real winners of 2015 do just a little bit better and take control? Will CC who lost so much ground in 2015 be able to bounce back? Will ACP, the only real alternative, continue to grow? The ballot boxes are not that far away and the electioneering will soon begin in earnest. Stalled projects will miraculously be completed. Bold promises will be made. El Tren may even be resurrected. It’s all good fun as long as you don’t take it too serious.

However, I do have a worry, with the fiasco better known as Brexit still up in the air, the UK could easily crash out of the EEC with no deal in March and overnight I could become an alien. Bad as that may sound, there is worse, I might lose my right to vote, I’ll be disappointed if I do.