In “virtual passing” I talk to a couple people I follow about authenticity, specifically how it relates to one’s #SAsearch. I’ve questioned whether it’s best to have a private or public Twitter feed. Or, should we worry less about the access people have to our tweets but rather be more concerned with what it is we’re tweeting?
A week or so ago, specifically the afternoon following the first night of the Republican National Convention I tweeted:
I was over Taylor Swift, Kanye, Kim, Melanoma-whatever Trump’s wife’s name is, the moment each thing blew up on Twitter.
Shortly after the tweet was posted I received a message from @laurenhaynes7. In a friendly heads-up she suggested I “think about how a refusal to say her name correctly or blow it off because it is different can be harmful. In doing this to her we are giving permission to those around us to do the same to others which could compound as microaggressions.”
Sadly, only through Lauren’s words did I understand the impression my tweet gave off. Otherwise I wouldn’t have tweeted it in the first place.
As I read her message over and over again I realized that my tweet was basically an homage to the candidate I despise: the man who for months has been better at reciting “Crooked Hillary” or “Little Marco” than reflecting on what policy issues he’d tackle in office. When you’re blind to your own privilege, and ignorant to how words can affect people, you malign others with ridiculous nicknames. You refuse to recognize someone the way they deserve to be recognized. That’s what a presidential nominee is doing daily, and embarrassingly I did the same thing.
No matter how little credence I give to this election, I can’t be blind to fighting ignorance with ignorance, let alone target a tweet to someone’s proxy when my frustration is with someone else.
Again, Lauren shared some perspective with me, “saying things like ‘melanoma’ instead of her real name just resorts to the same tactics [Trump] uses to convince people that immigrants, minority groups aren’t as valuable.”
Realizing the impact of my tweet, versus the intent, ruined me for a little bit.
At the time I was frustrated. In a moment of haste, I tweeted something without considering how others would take it, thereby ignoring how the tweet, though not an accurate portrait of who I am, is unfortunately all my followers would have to go off of in the moment.
Impact supersedes intent because no matter what someone intends, their words can always impact others differently. I don’t expect my followers to know me personally, but that’s not an excuse to mean what I say and say what I mean.
I have to be better. I have to educate myself, listen more, and observe.
Whether you’re on the #SAsearch or you’ve just become a newly minted #SApro, you have to be aware of your tweets’ impact. The fact that many of your followers, or potential future employers, may not know you personally isn’t an excuse to tweet the first thought that comes into your head. In a 140 character or less word your message may be misconstrued.
Be your own advocate and double-check what you’re about to publish. You need to ensure your message is written as clearly as possible so that what you want to get out is the message that does get out.
Meanwhile, thinking that those words, “Melanoma-whatever Trump’s wife’s name is,” could be someone’s first impression of me via a RT ruined me. That’s not what I’m about. I want people to know me for my contributions to our field, but my tweet was inexcusable and spoke to how much farther away I am from understanding privilege and social responsibility than I originally thought.
If I could quote everything Lauren said to me that day I would. We hardly know each other but I couldn’t be more thankful that she held me accountable for my tweet.
To everyone who read that tweet, whatever your perception is, I’m embarrassed and apologize for putting something out there as a representative of the field that we sometimes struggle to legitimize.
This post is part of the Emerging SA Pro series following 4 awesome people: Alexandria, Doug, Emily, and Alexander, as they blog monthly about 1 year of their journey as either a new SA Pro or SA grad student. We are proud to help them share their stories as they break into our field.