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Finding Common Ground

A former K-5 public school principal turned author, presenter, and leadership coach, DeWitt provides insights and advice for education leaders. He can be found at www.petermdewitt.com. Read more from this blog.

Education Opinion

8 Reasons Educators Should Reconsider Using Social Media Right Now

By Peter DeWitt — November 13, 2016 6 min read
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Your actions speak so loudly, I cannot hear what you are saying.” Ralph Waldo Emerson.

We force our students to sign acceptable use policies in school, but as adults, we aren’t doing a stellar job when it comes to our use of social media. What was very noticeable about social media over the last few days was the mere hypocrisy of people. We tell students to find common ground, and learn to get along, but a lot of adults are really bad at it.

The election season has been like no other. And that’s saying something because most elections are negative. This one was negativity on steroids. It’s important to remember that many feel hurt because their candidate lost and they wonder what this means for their country, at the same time someone else’s candidate won and they wonder what this means for their country.

It doesn’t matter whether you are left wing or right wing, you seem to be extreme in your political views. The liberal left is really not all that liberal, because they seem to be intolerant for those on the right, or anyone who doesn’t agree with them. And well, the right seems to be intolerant too.

What is truly interesting however, is the same people who constantly post comments about their distaste for our current president, and spew negative comments a few times a week, are the ones telling everyone else to be positive and remain calm. Perhaps they should scroll down a little lower on their own page to get a taste for what they have written in the past. Don’t expect of others what you don’t expect of yourself.

Social media is typically a way to get people to connect. We have #satchat, #edchat, #leadupchat and #sunchat where we can connect with other educators who have similar views...or even better...people that stretch our thinking. It’s not enough to just agree and cheer when someone Tweets, we have to debate a bit as well. After all, when used correctly social media gives us the opportunity to learn from one another. But debate means that we listen to each other and provide our side of the argument. Debates are about learning.

In other cases social media has created a huge shift in social justice issues. It has been a way for the voiceless to find their voice and be a part of a group that inspires change in their community. Twitter and Facebook have given anyone with a Smartphone the chance to speak out and give us insight into some atrocity that may be happening that we didn’t know existed.

Unfortunately, social media seems to be more and more popular for those who want to rant about their day, the election, celebrities, and their families. So, just because I feel it may be time for a reboot before we just continue to spew the same negativity over and over again, I thought I would create a list of why you should reconsider your use of social media. It’s kind of like Jeff Foxworthy’s “You might be a redneck” 2.0.

You should probably reconsider your use of social media if...
You’re don’t practice what you preach - Over the lifetime of using Facebook you rant about the most trivial things, and then when people feel the need to go through the grieving process because their candidate lost, you tell them they should be positive. Pay attention to your page first before you provide advice to others.

You still remain anonymous. You know who you are. You post negative comments on blogs all over Education Week, and tell Ed Week writers to listen more, when you won’t even put your real name with your comments. It’s the end of 2016...be brave and step outside your silly pen name. Don’t give those of us who share our opinions and stand behind our names your opinion if you can’t even sign your own name.

You lack evidence - Stop, for the love of everything good about the world, making your comments on Facebook and Twitter if you lack the evidence to back it up. Just an FYI...Abraham Lincoln did not tell everyone that they shouldn’t believe everything they read on the internet. If you are going to post something...check 2 sources...and no, the trashy magazines in the checkout aisle at the grocery store shouldn’t be one of them.

You Don’t like evidence - I recently found myself providing a counterpoint to a person who left a comment on a friend’s Facebook page after the election. The person remarked that she hadn’t seen any evidence to suggest that our president elect needed a course in cultural proficiency (I’m being kind with that definition). I provided evidence to the contrary and she said I was arguing with her. Nope...just providing the evidence she said she didn’t have after accusing the media of being completely biased.

You don’t like counterpoints - If you have no issue spewing hateful comments, then you should probably understand that not everyone will agree with you, and before they unfriend you...or talk about you behind your back...they will leave their counterpoint argument on your page. Please don’t whine when they do. Grow up, and understand that not everyone will agree with you.

You don’t like someone else’s politics - That very right that provided you with the opportunity to vote for your candidate, is the very right that provided other people to vote for theirs. Just because you don’t like their choice doesn’t mean you have the freedom to rip on them for their choice. If anything, as sad as it may be for you, this is an opportunity to understand why we seem so divided.

You don’t like dialogue - We seem to be having a lot of one-sided monologue and not any real dialogue. If you truly want to make a difference during a time when we really need to make a difference, then listen to the people who are on the other side of your debate.

You’re always right - Just a hint. You’re not. No one is right 100% of the time. If you’re need to be right drives everything you post, perhaps you should reconsider posting because it’s quite possible the other person debating you is the one who is correct.

In the End
The campaign did not turn out the way a lot of people thought it would, but it certainly offers a lot of learning lessons. Over the last two years people have stopped speaking to each other. As of the day after the election...when some people woke up with a election hangover, they began telling others to stop following them and talking to them. Strange thing about freedom of speech, people are entitled to it regardless of whether you agree with them. Personally, I would just like it to include real names and not anonymous ones.

Before we move forward telling people to stop talking or following us, maybe we should get a better understanding for why they voted the way they did. I have family members who voted for Clinton, and other family members who voted for President-elect Trump, and I’m not prepared to stop talking with them because I love them. What I really want to understand is why they voted the way they did.

Maybe we need more conversations around race, gender or sexuality. Maybe everyone needs a course in cultural proficiency or situational poverty. Maybe, just maybe, this is our sign that we have to listen to understand and not just to be heard.

Peter DeWitt, Ed.D. is the author of several books including Collaborative Leadership: 6 Influences That Matter Most (September, 2016. Corwin Press/Learning Forward). Connect with Peter on Twitter.


Image courtesy of Pixabay.

The opinions expressed in Peter DeWitt’s Finding Common Ground are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

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