Leadership · Curriculum · Lifelong Learning

Hey, Friends! Not sure about you, but I’ve seen a ton of twitter-shaming lately.

What’s going on?

I’m taking a moment to pause, reflect, and seek your feedback.

This isn’t about the President, politics, or celebrities. This isn’t the space for the gossip train or the petty stuff. This isn’t the cleaners where we dig up the dirt and air the dirty laundry.

This is about learning, networking, and people.

This is about educators and education.

This is about how we treat each other.

It’s a moment to pause… to look inward:

What… Happened?

That Was Then

Joining Twitter in 2013, I was late to the game. The space was already booming with interesting Twitter chats, collaboration, and sharing of meaningful ideas, strategies, and resources. There was a sense of ownership in telling your story, connecting with all kinds of people who may encourage, support, and challenge you, and finding your niche to become better. The learning potential was exponential and the next interesting conversation was a hashtag away.

Those were the days.

This Is Now

Recently, a friend shared this thread with me. The more I read the original five-tweet rant, the more I could’t help but agree–even though I didn’t want to. The general themes that orbit the Twitterverse now are more apparently rooted in ego, self-promotion, competition, insecurity, fear, hurt, and shame than I ever remembered six years ago.

To me, this rant tweet really hurt. Here, the ranter reflected on how he encouraged so many people to join Twitter over the years, but is now second-guessing himself. Ouch.

If you haven’t been a victim of the latest rage–just wait. Especially if you dare to be vulnerable, put yourself out there, and stake a claim every now and then–Your turn is coming. Be prepared.

Whether it be this group, that club, a movement, a hashtag, a former acquaintance, or even a well-intended tweep trying to strike up a conversation with ambiguous tone, they’re coming for you. To call them trolls seems a bit harsh… or does it?

And NO–We’re not going to blame anyone else, including famous people, for our actions. We are adults, professionals, and humans. We are people. We make choices on how to act, react, and interact. Blaming someone else for our own indecent actions is a copout. Acting with decency–or not–is a choice. Our digital actions are forever.

How, then, do we go about navigating our disagreements?

“You can ask these questions when you prepare to step up to a crucial conversation:
What do I really want for myself? What do I really want for others? What do I really want for the relationship? How would I behave if I really wanted these results” (Patterson, et. al., 2012, p. 43)?

Three Questions to Ask Yourself Before Pushing Others

It’s not [always] what you say, it’s how you say it.

1–Snapshots: Do I Have Clarity and Context?

You may be thinking: “C’mon!

And you would be right. There are times for swift, definitive action.

Yet, in several other scenarios, the questions remain. What if we:

Would that reveal an unforeseen angle that could change the conversation?

But that kind of patience and integrity rarely exist in a snapshot world.

It takes a lifetime to build a reputation and a moment to ruin it–seems to be in direct contrast with education’s themes of Take Chances, Make Mistakes, and Get Messy. Clearly, Ms. Frizzle’s fail forward field trips would not survive today’s social media frenzies.

The growth mindset quivers in snapshots of shame.

To be clear, a single, random snapshot may not reveal the total context of one’s character, motive, or intention, and to endlessly attack others like this, to polarize with a Polariod–and not even wait for the resolution to shake out–may be perceived as aggressive, harmful, and hurtful. Usually, it doesn’t even lead to uncomfortable learning–just negativity.

2–Soundbites: Do You Want to be Right or Do You Want to be Effective?

At one time, soundbites were taken from life as they happened. Now, information is created, disseminated, and consumed for soundbites.

The longing to be right–and for others to agree that we are right–can be so strong, that, when we’re not rewarded with instant gratification of being right, we feel threatened and unsafe. Our brains make a straight line to fight-or-flight. It’s this way OR that way–there are no other options. We’re hardwired to be binary:

“The part of the brain that goes into protection mode likes binaries: Good guy or bad guy? Dangerous or safe? Ally or enemy” (Brown, 2018, p. 259)?

Personally, I want to be right AND effective. But it doesn’t always work that way.

Perhaps, it’s about being right through being effective.

What if being effective was the ride you take on your way to your being right destination? Several coaching strategies come to mind.

Being effective may be a strategic process, requiring skill sets in questioning, listening, and patience over time. This takes self-discipline. When we’re looking to score quick, cheap points off of minute soundbites to smear others, then what have we really gained?

3–Shame: Do You Want the Answer or Do You Want the Show?

If you have spare time, will you troll random Twitter conversations; harpoon insults framed as questions; firehose opinions loosely based on facts; and then react with absolute shock when you poke, probe, prod, smear, and egg on the ones who don’t handle your shaming tactics with integrity?

It’s one thing to achieve desired outcomes through shaming and coercion; it’s quite another to earn those same outcomes as a result of cognitive dissonance. When people change from the culmination of a well-thought, challenged, and personal journey, they’re more likely to repeat those changed behaviors because they want to and they now believe in them.

Yet, when people are forced to change in the spotlight of shame because they have to, they’ll resent every step of the journey, never wholeheartedly embracing it or believing in it.

“The discomfort of cognitive dissonance is what drives meaningful change. Shame, however, corrodes the very part of us that believes we can change and do better” (Brown, 2018, p. 129).

If you genuinely want the answer, you could send a direct message on a back channel to the one with whom you have a disagreement. That would get the job done.

But if you want the show–if you believe everyone can benefit from the learning OR if you just want to shame someone–then, by all means, posting publicly is the way to go.

How we interact with each other says a lot.

It’s a mapping of our motive.

It’s a revelation of our heart.

It’s a verification of our values.

Eventually, our online interactions unmask our character.

Ultimately, it’s about how we treat each other as human beings.

What are your thoughts? Comment here!

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