So it’s the start of a New Year and often it’s a time when many look to change some aspect of their lives, be that exercising more, eating less, or learning a new skill. However, for me, this year my New Years resolutions are that I want to stop going around in circles on social media as much and try to have more productive discussions and debates.
I don’t know about you, but I am tired of having the same old discussions, about the same old issues, with the same old people, with no one prepared to change their views or opinions. As much as these discussions can be useful for others watching and help get different views, ideas and opinions aired, after engaging in these kinds of discussions for years and years I really want to try and move some of them forward, and so I have thought hard, reflected, contemplated, and listened to some advice from others about how I can do this.
Stop Trying To Win
When critical thinking or logical reasoning becomes a weapon, it ceases to be a useful tool. I have realised that if you are using your critical thinking or logical reasoning skills to only win arguments I can guarantee that you will not be using them well.
I have learnt that entering into debates and discussions with the aim of trying to win them is both futile and kind of pathetic. I have realised that no one is keeping count of the debates and arguments you have won except you, and all those that you think you’ve won, you most likely haven’t.
The whole point of entering into any debate or argument is to try and learn something from it, not win it. Having this change in mindset has helped me hugely in the way I interact and engage, or more often, don’t engage with some others. Having this mindset doesn’t mean you can’t stand your ground and fight for your opinions, ideas and position robustly; it just means you don’t assume or expect the other side to change their opinions, ideas or position easily.
Also, when entering into a debate with someone you disagree with, first ensure that you fully understand their position and/or premise. All too often I have found that many who disagree with me do so because they have misunderstood or misinterpreted my position due to only having a small piece of the full story, or a tiny glimpse of my opinions as a whole, especially on the topic of manual therapy, and especially on social media.
Having learned from this happening to me so often, I try to avoid doing it to others by ensuring I have understood their position and arguments as fully as I can before I start to discuss with them further. Doing this can often mean you find out that actually, you don’t need to argue about anything at all.
Stop Engaging As Much
You don’t have to attend every argument you are invited to. Recognising when to pick your debates, arguments, and battles is a key skill to master for your own health and well-being and one I am still working on.
I get a lot of emails, messages, comments, and remarks about various things I write about or post on social media these days, but I don’t respond to most of them. Some people get quite annoyed and frustrated at this, thinking I am aloof, arrogant, or full of myself. I am not.
I have just learnt that after many fruitless, circular discussions that often end up spiralling downwards into personal attacks and other such unpleasantries that mine and the other parties time and energy would have been better spent elsewhere. Recognising when this is happening or likely to happen and then withholding or withdrawing is often in the best interests of everyone.
However, despite withholding comment a lot these days I do still get some usual suspects trying to provoke a reaction out of me by thinly disguising a genuine question or comment as a personal attack or misrepresentation of my opinion. This is usually because they are upset or envious of my position and/or platform.
But again, I have learnt that rather than defend myself against these wassocks they are simply best ignored and avoided completely, and so I often place them on mute for them to moan and whine to themselves and their 23 followers. This is not because I am unable to respond to them, rather because I am unwilling to. And I honestly can’t recommend the mute button on social media enough… It’s a godsend!
Stop Assuming The Worse
Having said that I have also learnt to never assume malevolence in others when ignorance can explain it better. And never assume ignorance when incompetence can explain it better. And never assume incompetence when a simple mistake is the most likely explanation.
I will always give someone I don’t know the benefit of the doubt when they say or post something that I consider inaccurate, misleading, or just plain stupid. Whether you like to admit it or not, we are all too quick to judge others and often assume the worst of them, and I include myself here.
If this last year has taught me anything its that everyone is dealing with their own personal and professional issues that you don’t know about, and if you did they would make your problems look insignificant. So, give more people more room for more mistakes.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt when they say or do stupid shit is crucial these days because it’s so easy to make a simple mistake, misspeak or just be mislead or misinformed by others. However, if the usual suspects do keep on doing or saying stupid shit repeatedly despite others comments and critique then, by all means, call them out on it
Stop Spreading Bullshit
The last and most important point I want to make about social media discussions is about calling out pseudo-science, alternative facts, or straight-up bullshit. Despite some claiming otherwise, all healthcare professionals have a duty and responsibility to highlight bullshit circulating on social media about health, disease, pain and treatments whenever we see it.
Calling bullshit is essential for our profession to progress, but also to help protect our patients and the public from misinformation and making poor choices. However, there is no doubt that calling bullshit is both difficult and challenging and it has to be done appropriately, responsibly, and respectfully.
The first thing we can all do to help reduce the amount of bullshit circulating on social media is to, and I can’t emphasize this enough is… STOP PRODUCING AND SHARING BULLSHIT OURSELVES.
If you are going to call bullshit on others, being full of shit yourself is about as hypocritical as it comes, and I hate hypocrites.
I have learnt that carelessly calling bullshit on others whilst being guilty of it myself is a quick way to make enemies of strangers, and strangers of friends.
So, again I don’t think I can emphasize this enough… CHECK YOUR FACTS AND SOURCES THOROUGHLY before clicking that retweet/share/like button!
Just because that high impact journal publishes a paper showing your favourite type of exercise outperforms something else, doesn’t mean its worthy of sharing with others when you check the study design and find is about as robust as a chocolate teapot. Or just because that well-respected media source quotes some statistics on the latest treatment doesn’t mean they have interpreted them correctly or accurately.
Also, just because some Insta-Face-Tweet-book guru with a gazillion followers does something fancy or flashy on social media doesn’t mean its effective or evidence based. And conversely, just because that eminent Professor has written a pithy editorial highlighting the flaws in some social media gurus thinking doesn’t mean their thoughts or opinions are anymore valid, correct, or accurate.
The rate at which bullshit spreads on social media these days is both staggering and frightening, and I know full well that I have, at times, been an unwilling and unknowing part of it. However, if we all try to work a little bit harder, to think a little bit more, and check our sources and facts a little bit better we can help reduce this.
So there we go, a few New Year’s resolutions that are a little different from the usual exercise more / eat less. I am hoping to stick to these as best as I can through 2021 and beyond but like most New Year’s resolutions, I’m sure there will be some relapses and setbacks along the way, so #BeKind!
However, with some patience and perseverance, I’m sure that we all can improve our social media discussions and behaviours a little bit more. And on that note, I would just like to wish you all a happy and healthy 2021 and don’t forget about that mute button… honestly use it more…. You won’t regret it!