In my professional and personal life, I spend almost 100 percent of my time trying to “sell” Tooele County as a great place. It’s a great place to live, a great place to work, a great place for recreation.
However, in this time of social media proliferation, most of my time is spent doing “online reputation management.” The reputation we have as the “garbage dump” of Utah no longer refers exclusively to radioactive waste, and its product is no longer generated outside our borders as it once was. No, it now is talking about our citizens, and it is generated by our citizens.
For the last couple of years, it’s no secret that we’ve had a tough financial time. Even though a solid economic recovery plan has been put in place (and has proven to be effective), it’s not likely you’ll hear about it on Facebook, or in the “Letter to the Editor” section of this paper. It’s much more likely that you’ll hear about how evil some in our local government are, or how they have some sort of personal agenda. Misconceptions about Tooele County even surfaced during recent Senate hearings to confirm Tooele County Attorney Doug Hogan to the 3rd District Bench.
I’m seeing signs that the personal ugliness that was such a huge part of the political process in Tooele County this year has created a culture of negativity that must come to an end if we are to continue on the positive track we are on.
As I watch and participate on social media, it’s become clear to me that some of the mean-spiritedness that ripened back in March didn’t go away on Nov. 4 as many had hoped. It has simply changed targets to whatever is convenient, generally without the advantage of actual research on a subject.
Innuendo and character assassination are the new “truth.” This must stop. Why? Because it paints a picture of life in Tooele County that is inconsistent with reality It is also a great way to bring potential economic prosperity to a grinding halt, harming everyone that lives here.
I work in real estate. My job is bringing good folks to Tooele County. When I came here in ‘94, overcoming perceptions of the Wednesday afternoon siren tests, and what they meant, was the biggest stumbling block I faced. The problem now in ‘14 is that people start their search for their new home online. Stats say that as many as 90 percent of people on the move search the Internet before they ever look at a home.
So, what do they find online? Well, if they look at the Transcript Bulletin, they see normal life in a nice, semi-rural county, with the same issues any other place might have. However, if they only land on the “Letters to the Editor,” they’ll likely find out that we are just an unholy mess. Political corruption is apparently running rampant. Financial issues aren’t enough; we have to paint them as criminal, rather than the questionable judgment that they actually were. Don’t even get me started on the cess-pool of “information” available on Facebook. At best, we look like the white-trash capital of the world. At worst, we’re all criminals. Again, neither view is anywhere close to reality. But how can anyone know that?
So, what’s the answer? It’s actually quite simple in theory. First, if you have a beef with local government’s past behavior, get over it! Most of those folks are gone now, for right or wrong, and we are in a much better place than we were. Keep watching, keep engaged, but know what you’re talking about before you hit that “enter” key.
Second, how about occasionally commenting on the myriad of good things we have to offer. Our county is amazing and beautiful. Our elected officials are great people, whether you agree with everything they do or not. Stop any of them in the grocery store and say “hi!” Thank them for their service, and share your concerns with them. Then tell the world about that! It doesn’t happen everywhere. We are blessed to be here. It’s time the rest of the world hears that!
Sloan is a broker for Group-1 Real Estate in Tooele and is a former chairman of the Tooele County Republican Party.