I have spent quite a while thinking about this blog post, it’s a tricky one to write as finding the right words is important. I love social media and I love nursing …. but there is a huge negative to being an active and vocal nurse on social media in that sooner or later someone disagrees with you. Now don’t get me wrong here, I’m not being precious or unrealistic … I realise that we can’t all agree all of the time … so it’s not really the disagreeing that unsettles me but rather the fact that people disagree with unkindness.
Recently I have raised my head above the proverbial parapet on two occasions, the first occasion was on a topic I feel passionate about: the health of nurses when I wrote this blog post “Fit to Practice” where I shared my own personal journey to ensure that I am fitter and healthier to practice as a nurse. The second occasion was around the #100outstandingnurses project, which was a campaign to celebrate wonderful nurses. Both things were something that laid me wide open to criticism on social media, which I kind of expect because if you challenge thinking you have to expect to be challenged in return. BUT some of the comments I received from others on both of the aforementioned occasions were very personal indeed and bypassed the subject matter entirely! Without going into too much detail I was accused of being in an ivory tower ( I’m not ) , of having a 9-5 role (I don’t) , of not being a proper nurse (I am) , of saying things I had not said (I didn’t), and all topped off with some general very insulting personal remarks (!!). To expect that everyone will agree all of the time is unrealistic but I think perhaps it’s time to reflect on how we disagree and challenge each other constructively as a profession.
I heard someone say once that some people just sit around on social media waiting to be insulted … at the time I thought it was a strange thing to say, but here I am some 7 years down the line as a nurse on social media and I am left wondering if they have a point. There is part of me that feels that perhaps the people who have so vehemently disagreed with me on Twitter are perhaps “trolls” sat waiting under the social media bridge ready to take a comment out of context or to violently jump on what someone else says. Such comments have left me feeling whether I really want to be a nurse who engages in social media. However having reflected for quite sometime I think, though the ‘troll’ theory this is an easy explanation, that in reality this is not how it is.
The problem with social media is that context is collapsed …. people see a snippet of something and then in return others see a snippet, no one really see’s the whole picture, which can lead to multiple misunderstandings. When someone posts a comment on social media readers have no idea of the context of that comment, of the writers circumstances, thoughts or feelings and in return the writer has no insight into the readers circumstances either. Which is why we have to remember to take context collapse into account and be a little kinder and a little more forgiving in social media spaces. We should be curious and engaging when faced with something we don’t agree with rather than dismissive and personally insulting. We should remember that on the other side of every social media post there is a human being. We should remember that as nurses we need to be compassionate towards people in social media spaces, as well as in real life, and that compassion should extend to colleagues as well as the people we care for.
Just as I think that the “troll” theory is not the explanation I also think that “not engaging in social media” is not the solution. I still believe that social media is a wonderful tool for nurses and the nursing profession and I think that as a profession we need to encourage each other to stand up and say what we feel is important .. we should use our voices more as nurses and social media can help us to do this. Yet this is so hard to do if we constantly get shot down or we see others get shot down for speaking out on important issues. I am just a nurse .. and I choose my words carefully here, as I do not mean “just” in the self deprecating sense but rather in the sense that we all stand together … I am just a nurse who choses to try to make a difference to the world around me, and I know that there are many nurses who, like me, want to make a difference too .. so let’s encourage rather than discourage. Yes let’s disagree in social media spaces, but let’s disagree in a professional way and in a constructive way. I don’t know many nurses who set out to insult others (in any space!) so if you feel insulted by something a fellow nurse has said on social media perhaps remember this and seek to understand, seek to see things from their perspective, seek to disagree with kindness.