Written by Sarah Lee
Blogger, Writer, & Systems Administrator at Ruh Global Communications
Facebook and other social sites are ubiquitous in today’s society. They bleed over from business into personal and then back again. This can be really great, but of course there are some disadvantages to constant social streaming. The internet has always been a place where people can feel free to state any idea openly and anonymously if they chose. In a time when anonymity on the internet is becoming less frequent, we may see some unsettling things from those we know. This is not to say that these social media sites do not have any merit though.
A year ago I deleted my Facebook (for the third time). It’s easy for me to recall what pushed me over the edge from casual deactivator to resolute detractor. A high school acquaintance had posted a picture of the model Ashley Graham and proceeded to fat-shame her. How dare Ashley Graham call for body-diversity at the sacrosanct Victoria’s Secret fashion show! Once my anger subsided, I paused, and deleted my venomous response. My anger soon turned to deep sadness. My former classmate saw beauty through a precise lens that dissected diversity into ugliness while I felt an effervescent fullness as multitudes of people, places, and things passed.
Don’t get me wrong. I didn’t just delete my Facebook because everyone was making me angry and I wanted to distill my social interactions into a discourse-free harmony. It was a lack of discourse; a lack of conversation, that made Facebook seem pointless. In place of conversation was what has come to be known as “call out” culture. This is where people attempt to publicly shame people for their views via social media. I saw more “calling-out” than real engagement, and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.
So this is me calling on people to take a moment to re-evaluate their crusade. It’s easy for me, in the heat of the moment, to think of someone as less than me for not sharing the same viewpoint. It’s especially easy when I perceive them as being on the other side of justice. It’s easy, but is it really productive to call them out? To tell them how wrong and hateful and ignorant they are? To make certain to let everyone know in your group of friends that this person has these inexorable qualities and must be shunned? Maybe there just needs to be a little more understanding, a little more listening. Maybe if I had a conversation that carried these qualities, I could have changed my acquaintance’s mind.
I’ve become even more aware of this recently. I work for Ruh Global Communications, a Strategic, Social Media and Consulting firm who specializes in the accessibility and inclusion realm. As a result, I work with many talented individuals with disabilities. That being said, In the community of Persons with Disabilities, I’ve found that, as they try to find their voices, some people can appear negatively vocal on Social Media about slow change in true inclusion of individuals with disabilities.
When a person posts something disparaging on Social Media, maybe we can try different ways to really engage by framing our approach creatively and in a thoughtful way. Not only responding without condescension or presumption, but really listening; seeking to understand, asking the candid questions that drive at the root of someone’s worldview to understand why it is this person thinks the way they do. Also take into consideration whether they truly have positive or negative intent. Remember we can also use these times as an opportunity to share knowledge and training with others. I think this has the potential to be mutually beneficial and well worth the energy required, even though at times it takes a lot. It’s easy to go negative when things are not up to par, but we run the risk of coming off in a way that isn’t adding value to the conversation. Positivity brings change; not to say that we shouldn’t be vocal, Speak up about the change you want to see! Disappointment can be angering, but remember that we want change and others want to help; we all just need to be receptive to change and listen if we want to be heard. We must try to keep the dialogue open, grounded, and as positive as possible.
I hope that the “call out” culture that has become so prevalent on social media amongst my peers can begin to change. I hope that we can begin to try to create meaningful shifts in attitude through genuinely empathetic conversations. Our community would be benefited by allowing a deeper understanding of what barriers exist in people’s minds towards understanding our community and if the person allows it, their world could become a much more enriching, beautiful place.