#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 3)
Once again, I want to share my thoughts on this conversation and provide you what I have been chewing on as a White, Cisgender, Heterosexual Man. If you are new to this blog, you can start with this here:
I think what has hit me most in thinking about Digital Leadership and Social Media competencies is just how steeped in privilege and power they are. We often talk about white systemic power and privilege being grounded in the past, but when it comes to Social Media, the white system is being built in real time. From a very macro level, the talent pool being lifted and extolled as experts on social media is very white. I am aware of colleagues of color doing good work on social media and leadership, but they are often ignored when selecting leaders to train and educate us as a field. Rarely are they asked to speak at national conferences or lead summits on social media work. Also, I am starting to notice a lack of diversity when it comes to those of us doing marketing work in student affairs.
We default to leaders to train us who make us feel comfortable about ourselves – that means looking for white, cisgender, heterosexual men and women who are developing the knowledge base and areas of expertise. In turn, this gives power to these groups and maintains the system of power and privilege in our field. Instead we need to be looking at ways to dismantle white power and privilege when it comes to social media and digital leadership.
Some things I have seen develop that reinforce the privilege:
- A very white, cisgender, heterosexual privileged view of authenticity. We talk a lot in digital leadership about being your “true self.” But for many of our colleagues, being their “true self” could hurt their careers.
- On many campuses (specifically faith based private colleges) you could get fired for being gay. How authentic can our colleagues who work on these campuses be on social media?
- In our field, being “nice” is vaunted as an ideal trait for professionals. As someone who deals with micro and macro aggressions on a regular basis, how “authentic” can our colleagues be if they are authentically angry?
- In our field, mental health issues are taboo. If a professional colleague were struggling with mental health issues like depression, how “authentic” can they be on social media if they are truly struggling?
- In our field, being “professional” has a very distinct connotation rooted in white cisgender power and privilege. As someone with privilege, it is a LOT easier for me to be my authentic self and be given a pass when I may do something “outside the norm.” I am looked at as “quirky” or “edgy” but it probably won’t hurt my career. Conversely, someone who crosses gender binary lines in how they indentify and/or dress could be hurt in their careers as being “unprofessional.”
- It takes time to be on social media. I can be on social media at work as a white professional, and no one is going to question my competency as a professional. Being on social media while doing my job actually makes me a better professional because of what I learn and I am able to bring back to my campus to educate others. But can other colleagues who aren’t given the same presumptions about their competency do the same?
- Also, because I am white, often times less is required of me on my campus to be perceived as competent. This allows me more time to “do” social media. If I had to work harder to maintain perceptions of competency, I am less able to engage on social media and therefore might have less time to contribute to the knowledge base.
So with this, what do I do? How do I work to dismantle privilege when it comes to social media leadership? I listen. I challenge. I lift voices of those marginalized to make sure my other white (privileged) colleagues are listening. I speak to those with power and ask them to consider these concepts in the decisions they make around social media.
More to come on this topic from me and others.