Welcome back to our Talk of the Town column from Bromley Town councillor Nicky Dykes. This week she discusses the downside of social media and the disgusting abuse politicians such as herself are subjected to.

There is a hugely positive role that social media plays in our society. It can be a force for good - raising the profile of campaigns and community news.

As a councillor I find it a useful tool for communicating with residents and it makes politicians more accessible. So far so good.

However, I recently weighed the decision of deleting my social media accounts. Seeing the vicious and nasty comments that are directed at people, sometimes myself but also colleagues and friends, I have found it hard to stomach.

I am sure we have all seen nasty comments online - whether they be a row on Twitter or a scathing response on Facebook. Throw politics into this and the nastiness is amplified.

You have to have a thick skin to be in politics, but why does social media mean that we should stop communicating with respect and civility, even when we don’t agree?

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I have personally had misogynistic comments directed at me and my children (from opposition candidates) and whilst unpleasant I have got off lightly.

Colleagues of mine on the council (all women) have been called ‘evil’, ‘demon’, ‘sinister’, ‘beast’, in addition to having their photo taken without permission and posted online and having their photos mocked up in degrading images. These are just the comments that I can publish.

Between Twitter spats and Facebook fights, rudeness seems to be more prevalent. When opinions clash online, it is easy to get caught up in emotions which soon escalates.

News Shopper:

Being rude to one another online isn’t constructive. It doesn’t encourage discussion or challenge people to be accountable for their posts. Social media isn’t really designed for lengthy conversations. In fact, sometimes a discussion isn’t even expected – just a one-way flurry of aggression.

This is why I considered leaving. Part of the reason I became a councillor is because I love meeting and talking to people. I love that Twitter and Facebook provide a platform to encourage contact. It's why I decided no. I am not going to be pushed off social media by a minority of people. I have had inspiring and interesting interactions as well as useful information sharing sessions on social media.

Energy and focus should be on the good – it’s the only way to try and eradicate the toxicity that sometimes permeates these platforms.

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I am no saint. I have been so frustrated, I have entertained fruitless rows myself. I believe it’s time we hold a mirror up to ourselves to find the truth about our online personas. How would you feel as the recipient of what you are writing? It’s never too late to take a deep breath and add a touch of calm. We are all human after all – let's treat each other that way.