Policing Others on Social Media: 3 Reasons This is Not an Effective Strategy for Inciting Real Change

Recently in our nation, we have seen a lot of frustration and division. Now, more than ever, individuals are fired up, wanting to see real change, and speaking out on the topics which they are most passionate about. 

I am all for passionately defending a movement or an initiative, but lately I’ve seen a lot of professionals policing others on social media. What do I mean when I say policing? Individuals are calling out others for not sharing information in a certain way or for not standing behind a movement they believe in, in a way that makes sense to them. 

A friend of mine recently told me when we were discussing this policing, “You can’t shame people into agreeing with you or changing.” She’s right. This is not the way to incite real change and I’ll be damned if I’ve seen shaming, calling others out behind a computer screen, or forcing one’s opinions on others actually work. Below I’ll share three reasons why policing others on social media is not an effective way to incite real change and I’ll give you three ways to flip your narrative so that real change can begin to take place.

  1. By calling others out on social media, you immediately place that individual on the defensive. 

When an individual is on the defensive, it can be nearly impossible to really reach them. Instead of calling them out, pointing fingers or placing blame, try approaching the situation with an open mind. Say things like, “I’m interested to hear why you feel that way. Can you tell me more?” Recently, I had a very productive conversation with a close friend about racism in America. I had some questions about her position and so I asked because I wanted to educate myself on her opinion and multiple other opinions. We can’t get anywhere if we immediately meet others with frustration and hate. 

2. You create more frustration by undermining someone’s attempt to support a movement. 

Lately we have seen a lot of social media driven movements. We saw this with #blm and the posting of a black square on Instagram and now, we are seeing it with the posting of black and white photos to stand in solidarity with women in Turkey. I understand that it can be incredibly frustrating to see a woman unknowingly post a black and white photo. However, taking it upon yourself to call out those women, shame them for posting a photo, accuse them of invalidating a movement, and ultimately inject more frustration into the situation, accomplishes essentially nothing. Instead of making a grand statement about how they are invalidating a movement, try sharing the reasons behind the movement and flood your own feed with those reasons. You don’t get to assign value and worth to a post on social media because you don’t know the intention behind every individual’s reason for posting. Moreover, you don’t know what kinds of conversations those same women are having off of social media with their friends and loved ones. Everyone consumes and puts out information differently, the last thing we need is more negativity in this world. If we act like nothing is ever enough, it never will be. Let’s be kind and acknowledge that a step in the right direction is still, nonetheless, a step.  

3. Taking it upon yourself to tell others it is “okay to be wrong as long as you do the work to fix it” is condescending and doesn’t help.

Again, this comes back to education and starting a conversation on an even, and positive, playing field. Telling others “it’s okay to be wrong” immediately implies that your opinion is the only “right” opinion. Instead of telling others “it’s okay to be wrong” try opening the lines of communication by saying, “this is my opinion but I’m interested in hearing yours.” I wish I could stress this over and over again, communication and an understanding of differing opinions and experiences is going to fix the world, not trying to convince others of yours. 

As professionals, it is our duty to keep things, well, professional. How can you stand up for what you believe in while keeping things professional and the lines of communication open? Let me know in the comments. For information on how to professionally address conflict happening in the workplace, go here

Cheers! 

Caitlin 

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