Editor’s note: This is the second post in a three-part series on civility and social media. See part one, “Got Civility? ASHA Digital Toolkit Promotes Respectful Online Communication,” and part three, “Handling Trolls on Social Media: A How-To Guide.”
As incivility in personal and professional communications becomes more prevalent, we—as professionals in communication sciences and disorders (CSD)—can serve as models of civility in all types of discourse: professional and personal, private and public, written and spoken.
ASHA communications follow four basic tenets. We encourage members to adopt these principles.
CSD research, practice, culture and understanding are constantly evolving. Colleagues may not agree on an issue and may never reach consensus. However, public and disparaging criticism of peers is inappropriate and harms the professions. Under ASHA’s Code of Ethics, members are expected to maintain harmonious relationships with colleagues, patients and clients. Social media sites, as vehicles for engagement and connection, should not be used to disrupt colleagues’ engagement with their communities. Members who question a colleague’s statements should address the colleague privately, recognizing that the recipient may choose whether to answer.
Encourage constructive dialogue
Professional discussions on social media should focus on the issue or topic—never on the participants’ character, intelligence, culture or opinion. Constructive dialogue fosters greater insight and understanding, even if participants’ opinions remain unchanged. Public antagonism and divisiveness dishonor the professions—but constructive engagement among peers demonstrates professionalism to consumers and other practitioners and sets an example for future CSD professionals.
Discourage public belittling
Professional peers should not encourage the humiliation or bullying of other professionals by “liking” or sharing discourteous or disrespectful content. Those who witness such behavior toward colleagues, even those with whom they may disagree, might want to extend support for articulating their positions and engaging in the conversation.
The words, messages and behaviors on digital platforms reflect not only on the competencies and conduct of their originators, but also the values and credibility of the entire CSD discipline. It is crucial that ASHA members set strong examples of personal conduct and professional behavior for current and future practitioners.
Incivility may also raise ethical considerations. Even “private” social media groups are not really private, as someone can take screenshots of comments and conversations and share them online. Before you post, try viewing your potential comments through the lens of a current or future supervisor, student, legislator or client.
In addition, uncivil comments may be considered defamation, which includes verbal and written statements that are factually false. Defamation laws, which vary from state to state, are generally intended to protect people and organizations from false statements that could monetarily harm their reputations and have financial implications. To prove defamation claims in most states, the aggrieved party must establish that the defendant uttered or published a false factual statement to a third party. Statements of opinion are rarely deemed defamatory.
For more information on when a civility issue may trigger an ethical concern, visit “The Ethical Use of Social Media,” which provides guidance from the ASHA Board of Ethics.
And stay tuned for a post that shares some of the tips from the new toolkit.
Mike Skiados is ASHA director of membership. MSkiados@asha.org