In our first official post of our series (see introduction here), we’ve asked Rhett Burden to weigh in on this topic of Social Media spaces as a black professional. Rhett currently serves as an Assistant Director of Residence Life with Campus Living Villages in San Francisco. He is also an author, speaker, entrepreneur, and activist. His children’s books can be found at Royally Melanated (www.royallymelanated.com)
This is what Rhett has to say on the subject:
As a member of several personal, professional and scholastic social media pages and groups, I’ve learned to govern my engagement under the principle of speaking “truth to power.” My ultimate goal is to learn from those in the digital media space that are wiser than I, share marginalized perspectives and to boldly and unapologetically speak my mind on social issues that impact my community. I also remain cognizant of my position and perspective by filtering who can see my comments as I compartmentalize friends, family, and colleagues under several different categories.
Authenticity is exceedingly important as I navigate social spaces. As a life-long learner, I want to ready, study and be under the tutelage of media organizations, scholars and thought leaders who have journalistic and professional integrity. Erudition from honest media and individual sources allows me to circumnavigate their space which propels the message I share to my audience. As a professional of color, I believe it’s my obligation to honestly, sincerely and unapologetically speak up for my community, the melanoid community. I believe as long as I share my ideals and sentiments on my personal platform and do not force them on colleague’s pages or shared spaces, the moral high ground is with me.
I learned to navigate digital spaces from trial and error. Understanding my digital footprint has come from making mistakes, intruding on other’s platforms and engaging too quickly in digital dialogue that I was not equipped to take part in. Social media provides the endless platform for growth, critique, and humility. Whenever I engage young professionals in social media management, I always advise they follow three simple rules:
The largest difference that I notice (between white professionals and black professionals) while navigating social media spaces is my ability to engage in and support pro-black rhetoric, movements and actions while simultaneously having to be mindful of the fragility most of my white counterparts have in their ability to openly express or support, varying narratives. There is a huge disparity in what black professionals can and cannot support based on the university you work at, colleagues you engage with and impact you have on social.
The barriers and challenges that I face (on social media) most often because of my identity are:
I navigate those challenges by being well-read and studied, connecting with allies and compartmentalizing certain components of my professional life and day.
It’s important for young professionals to find groups, pages and colleagues that share their values and relish open dialogue. I would encourage new professionals to network, build mastermind groups with like-minded professionals and engage in honest and direct dialogue about workplace culture and their comfort level.
Young professionals have questions and it’s my hope that weathered- professionals will take the opportunity to digitally give back to the profession. I encourage them to make mistakes and fail forward. Missteps will occur when operating digital platforms, its ok. Learn from the circumstance, language and feelings portrayed and move on. So much happens on social daily that mistakes are quickly overshadowed by the next hot topic.