The following article was authored by Sandy Bolton MP and published in the Noosa Today on the 16th of February 2024:

Prior to last week’s travels with my parliamentary Youth Justice Reform Select Committee, Shoey and I did a ‘roady’ to Croatia and Slovenia.  I learnt much from its history, including the relatively recent War of Independence which emanated from a series of events over hundreds of years, and what appears an inability of governments to ‘listen’. We also learnt they, like many other favoured tourist destinations similar to Noosa, are working out how to balance resident amenity with visitors. Whether by boom gates, entrance fees, resident only zones, new technology including SMS registration to park, all come with the inevitable negotiations in the process. This encompassed in one village around an allocation of one car space per ratepayer in congested precincts which I have no doubt saw some heated debate! And yes, we did get parking fines as we traversed different areas with different rules, sometimes without an English translation? Examples of solutions are all around us, however they do not come easily!

Resolving issues requires not only the intent and idea, it needs analysis to avoid unintended consequences, as well greater efficiencies in underpinning decision making processes, governance and the operations within the public sector.  These efficiencies lead to more dollars being available to deliver a solution (and less ‘tape’ of any colour) to meet our expectations whether in relation to parking, roads, education or health services. Then there is the ‘elephant in the room’, needing bold leaders and governments to address as it is considered a ‘vote loser’, and that is the need for greater self-responsibility by all of us to reduce the unintended costs of our decisions and the demand for ‘more’ or ‘bigger’.

Take a moment to think how personal responsibility is increasingly becoming diminished in societies, and how ultimately the consequences impact us all. Whether as a taxpayer, a self-funded retiree or pensioner, we are all affected by ambulance ramping, police delays, dangerous drivers and riders, uncontrolled dogs in public spaces and so much more.

Let’s look at what responsibility incorporates. It is owning the outcomes of our personal decisions, whether that be what we buy/eat/smoke/drink and do including letting our youngsters ride an e-scooter without ensuring they are using them safely or legally. How we drive, manage our anger or relationships all have potentially life changing impacts. One aspect that is creating considerable concern in every realm, raised in public hearings or in Croatia, in relation to repeat juvenile offenders, community divisions, the devasting suicides of youngsters, or yes, even election outcomes, is social media algorithms.

First off, let’s understand what this is. Algorithms are codes embedded and designed to keep you scrolling, clicking, and engaging. They analyse your behaviour, preferences, and interactions to serve you content that will keep you on the platform longer. Sounds harmless? Well, not quite. As increasingly reported, these algorithms are incredibly manipulative, designed to tap into our psychological vulnerabilities to keep us coming back for more as a recent study by Stanford University highlighted.

This constant bombardment of curated content can have severe repercussions on our mental health. From increasing levels of anxiety and depression to fostering body image issues, the algorithmic choices are not always in our best interest. The more you engage (or click ‘like’) with content that triggers negative emotions, the more you will see. An example is those who click on disasters are then fed a constant stream of disasters, hence it becomes a vicious cycle of negative reiterations.

The other alarming aspect is the spread of misinformation. Algorithms prioritize content that garners high engagement as a result of a ‘shock’ element, not necessarily content that is factual or beneficial. This can lead to the creation and expansion of ‘echo chambers’ where you are only exposed to opinions and information that align with our own existing beliefs even if they are wrong. Without exploring independently and objectively, we are not exercising our brain, just feeding our desire to be ‘right’, and that all others are ‘wrong’.

Doesn’t that sound like our Parliamentary Chambers? Yes, a combative system that is based on being ‘right’ that divides, not unites, in an era where more than ever we need constructive, informed and knowledge-based debate with ‘bipartisan’ decisions in multiple realms.

Having just come from travelling across regional Queensland hosting public hearings with my committee’s inquiry into youth justice reform, there have been many impassioned requests from submitters and witnesses, with one being that major issues need to stop being politicised, and for both sides to get on with the job of addressing these through agreements. This because it is going to take many election cycles to minimise the contributors to recidivist youth offending including entrenched poverty, lack of access to cognitive and mental health assessments/treatment/facilities, and intergenerational abuse. With the majority of repeat offenders’ victims themselves of domestic violence, sexual abuse and reduced cognitive capacity, we will continue in the current cycle where detention is not a deterrent, leading to the high reoffence rates seen if we do not address the causes.

Social media is also being used to incite and radicalise. Anecdotal evidence being provided is that algorithms send pro criminal content, with the same platforms then providing the ability for youngsters to link up in the real world, taking the initial interest in what may seem a funny or adventurous clip via ‘likes’ and ‘following’ into ‘thinking’ then on to ‘action’, especially by those whose cognitive capacity or lack of parental/carer supervision is diminished.

So, what can we do about this? Awareness is the first step. Knowing how these algorithms work can help us make more informed choices about ours, and our children’s social media use, including avoiding the demoralising, nonsensical and totally detrimental content on some community boards, which we all continue to be horrified by! Whatever happened to the old adage if you have nothing good to say, say nothing? We have businesses targeted by competitors, people with mental health challenges being traumatised, as well traumatising others, and vested interests spraying rubbish in efforts to getting more ‘likes’, that perpetuate even more destructive posts. Do not become an ‘enabler’ of this, instead prioritise your mental well-being through customizing your feed, setting time limits, and being mindful of your emotional responses to the content you consume. As well, do a social media ‘detox’ with some time out!  And for those with children, there are plenty of programs and advice to help monitor their usage. This is our responsibility as parents and grandparents, not theirs, nor governments. Children need guidance to make good choices.

In amongst the many other unrealistic and destructive content posted that algorithms love, is the seeking of ‘acceptance’ whether in relation to how we look, or behave, with young Queenslanders most impacted by peer group pressure through posts geared to get the most ‘likes’ as a form of ‘approval’, hence the importance of keeping our ‘likes’ to positive enforcement, not negative. In other words, we need to stop feeding those algorithms, and not engage with content that is divisive, unrealistic or shocking. That includes clicking on media ‘grabs’, as that is part of feeding the cycle.

Every day, I am in contact with residents impacted with mental health challenges and one of the first things I suggest is some time out from social media and instead connect to community in other ways.  Take a walk in the neighbourhood and chat to others doing the same, catch up with friends or any of our furry friends! Allocate time to any of the incredible organisations and efforts, such as reading to our elderly in care homes, or joining in the ongoing battle against Singapore Daisy. All enriching, beneficial and connecting for our soul and fellow residents.

Not only will you benefit, but our whole community also does through better overall health, which in turn decreases waits in casualty or for police who are increasingly overwhelmed by domestic violence calls and mental health checks as just some examples.

So please, make your goal this year to become more knowledgeable about issues, informed about algorithms and their impacts, and kinder in what we say and do. If you need a hand or information, reach out as we are all here for you, as when you bloom, so do we as a collective!

Whilst on social media and its use, lets touch on the local government elections. With some of the most appalling commentary and attacks on several of our councillor and mayoral candidates that is totally inappropriate and deeply disappointing, some emanating from ‘faceless’ pop-up pages and fake profiles, it has never been a better time to ‘log out’ for a bit! Instead listen to your own hearts, contact candidates or meet up with them, and base your decisions on information from credible sources. Our community is much better than becoming fodder for faceless disruptors, who ultimately have no care for the harm being perpetrated, the divisions being created, nor the overall wellbeing of others.

To all candidates, again I wish you all well for next month, and remind everyone that local State Government matters I have been working on are well advanced, and to call me with any questions.  To avoid replication as I report on these often, progress on affordable housing, the Noosa Hospital emergency expansion, decommissioned TAFE and Cooloola Great Walk are all on my website at and are ‘in hand’, so there is no need for election promises except to support our ongoing efforts!

Until next month when we tackle our recent annual survey results, love our home, and all within!