Recent spats on Twitter are a reminder what a perilous playground this platform can be.
It can be a place for meaningful CPD exchanges, enlightenment and inspiration but it is also an outrage machine that spits in your face covering you in capital letters, exclamation marks and toxic testosterone oozing pedagogical pus everywhere.
If you offer an opinion or voice that rattles a cage then it isn’t long before things turn ugly and the abuse starts with seemingly thoughtful, intelligent people saying really stupid things. Some colleagues forget who they are, they crack, they let rip and they rapidly lose face.
Condemning others on a public platform without engaging in a constructive dialogue has become a social media combative sport. The attacks have been personal and malicious.
James Hempsall hits the nail on the head saying that some social media posts have
been unprofessional, disrespectful and unhelpful. It has not presented our sector in the way it should, it has not reflected our leadership, tolerance and commitment to equality. On reading such materials, I often wonder if it would pass the test against the British values we are tasked with promoting – those standards of mutual respect and tolerance, democracy, rule of law, and individual liberty.
The Primary Head’s Blog also gets it spot on,
Plus, at the moment, Twitter seems less about networking or sharing good ideas. It’s seems to be more about being vile to each other. By vile, I mean: petty, loud and repetitive.
Many ripostes and retorts are considered, respectful and challenging but plenty aren’t. When the knives are out, it’s easy to get sucked into a comprehension-defying rally of unprofessional tit for tat ‘war of words’ erupting venomous cant and vicious insults.
If things turn personal, which they often do, then the damage is already done and professionalism has lost. It’s where someone complains about being the target of a personal attack while committing an emotionally-fuelled personal attack themselves: game over.
Quite rightly we are precious about what we say and defending our Weltanschauung is important but thinking and responding carefully in the heat of a Twitter tirade can go out of the window.
Arguments matter and responses on any platform need to be carefully measured but they have to remain civil and professional.
It’s easy to go from hero to zero if you allow yourself to enter into emotionally charged petty ping-pongs because pride takes over. Remember who can read what you are saying – colleagues, students, parents, future employers…everyone.
Some Tweets are so personal and abusive it beggars belief. If you want to press the self-destruct button on your career and reputation then Twitter is the place to do it.
Twitter Attack Dogs
Anyone that signs-up for Twitter should be required to read a book about thinking clearly. Jill LeBlanc’s got one and it’s called ‘Thinking Clearly’ and in one chapter, Relevance, she refers to “Ad Hominem” which is Latin for “against the person”.
An argument that resorts to using an ad hominem attacks a person in order to rubbish the person’s argument instead of using research or logic to do so. An ad hominem fallacy is an argument with bad logic and poor reasoning….and Twitter is full of those.
Another type of ad hominem argument is a circumstantial ad hominem which addresses the circumstances of the arguer rather than the personality. The circumstantial ad hominem is a kind of ‘explaining away’ technique, e.g. “Of course he would say that, because …”
Graham Brown-Martin makes a fine job of explaining ad hominem in his light-hearted 5 Tips to Twitter article along with The Conspiracy Theory Dismissal, The Straw Man, “I don’t like your tone”, and Here come the Twitter Police. Graham refers to the intellectually challenged “indignant Twitter attack dogs and avenging angels” that use social media in a far from social way.
Unfortunately, Twitter can be the pop-in playground where people can destroy each other in moments of madness. If you are really unlucky then you’ll be bullied by a detractor (troll) and they’ll enlist a small army of spiky supporters or ‘trolleys’ who are happy to jump on board the timeline and join in.
If there is an argument to be had then have it but you must pick your debates wisely and come to them with an effective strategy, tip-top tactics and a sound, evidenced argument that avoids the personal at all costs.
Tweeting comes with responsibilities to think clearly and speak clearly.
If you are on the receiving end of a personal attack fallacy then always step-back, wipe off the sour vinegar and calculate whether you should back-off and let it lie so that your professional status remains intact. If you feel a response is necessary then tread carefully because the fireworks, fizz and friction are everywhere..
In the age of vitriol where splitting hairs and spitting feathers is the norm, Twitter can be a schoolyard of narcissism where professional conversations quickly descend into barbaric yawps and self-defeating primeval barks. Make yourself heard by all means but beware of the snares, snipers and cynics along with the glib one-liners, cheap shots and asterisks.
Twitter CPD should be about rapport and relationship building.
One more thing…
“Don’t interrupt me while I’m interrupting.”
Winston Churchill might very well have been good at using Twitter if it were around in his day but Twitter put-downs are too easy when there are no verbal overlaps or interruptions. You say your bit and you have to wait for the reply although whilst you are waiting a bus-load of Tweeters chip in to have their ‘two-penneth’ worth .
One of the scandals of our schools used to be the way in which teaching was allowed to be such an isolated and private activity. Social media makes teaching in silos a thing of the past even if you are a lone wolf – sharing is easy and the playground is always open.
One of the scandals of our time now is that schools employ ‘professionals’ who tweet personal abuse one minute and stand in front of a class the next? We don’t need bullies in the profession so why put up with them?
Go at it hammer and tongs if you like but let’s keep it courteous and think before your post.