#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.



#SocialMediaSoWhite (Part 2)

Dismantling Power and Privilege in Social Media Spaces


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:

  1. If you have an opinion where you have no responsibility, proceed with caution
  2. Know your audience
  3. Thoroughly understand what you choose to engage in

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:

  • Tokenism
  • The “Black Tax” – The notion that black people have to work and perform regular task twice as well as their white counterparts
  • Establishing mentor based relationship with fellow black professionals. There are too few of us in the professional ecosystem.

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.

#SocialMediaSoWhite (Introduction)

Greetings!  As we explore this journey of Social Media and Digital Leadership, I was struck recently when I received an advertisement for a prominent Higher Education Social Media Conference.  There were 12 speakers at this online conference, and when I looked at the advertisement I was surprised at the lack of racial diversity among their panelists.  In addition, as we approach March 25, 2017; the one year anniversary of the #BLKSAPBlackout on the Student Affairs Facebook page, I wanted to engage with colleagues about the concept of digital leadership and social media through a lens of equity and inclusion.

Questions came to my head regarding who is gaining power in our field when it comes to Social Media leadership and whether the knowledge base currently being researched, discussed, and transferred to Senior Student Affairs Officers was truly inclusive of all experiences, or whether the knowledge was being couched and framed within white privilege and power.  We began to explore this concept with various colleagues and have asked some to write on their experiences as black professionals who use social media. It is our hope this expands the knowledge and resources out there in how social media is used by various people groups who may not identify as white, cisgender, heterosexual and male.  In addition, we desire to honor the important gift given to us as white professionals on the facebook page a year ago with the #BLKSAPBlackout.  We have put together a few slides to highlight just some of the knowledge shared on the page, but we would encourage you to check out the entire conversation – just search for #BLKSAPBlackout on the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page

In engaging black professionals on this topic, we asked the following questions for exploration:

  • What are some of your standard operating procedures when it comes to social media and how you engage?
  • What role does “authenticity” play in how you navigate social media? Among the research, authenticity seems to play a prominent role.  How do you navigate this as a professional of color?
  • How did you learn to navigate social media? Were there missteps you made and how do we train young professionals to learn from your mistakes?
  • What can we do to teach young professionals about how to be digital leaders and engage in social media in a way that enhances their career?
  • What differences do you see in how you, as a black professional, navigate social media spaces than your white counter parts?
  • What barriers and challenges do you face because of your identity?
  • How do you navigate those challenges, and what could new professionals do to navigate them to learn from your knowledge and wisdom?

These were merely prompts, as we asked colleagues to take this where they felt led.  It is our hope these writings over the next few weeks will enlighten and engage in the topic of power and privilege within social media.

At the same time, I wanted to explore where my privilege and power was blinding me from being inclusive in my social media practice.  Where could I dismantle the power and privilege we already have in a relatively new communication system?  I explored tone policing, the erasing of race from our worldview as white people, and the concept of impact vs. intent.  It is our hope this series will engage, create discussion, and produce a much richer field for exploration in the world of Digital Leadership.

If you’d like to add to this discussion in an official capacity, we would love to include your voice!  Feel free to email tyler and we can get you set up to add to the series.

Read Part 2 Here

Read Part 3 Here

Read Part 4 Here

Read Part 5 Here

Read Part 6 Here

Read Part 7 Here

Read Part 8 Here

Being a Chick in Cyberspace

*A note from the author. I write this as a cisgender white woman. This post reflects some experiences and statistics of other female gender-identified users.

I write this post in light of women’s history month, which in preparation got me thinking about the unique experiences that women and girls experience especially in digital spaces. Digital communities have afforded me many networking, branding and outreach opportunities – but not without drawbacks.

Being a chick online can rock – it can also be rough.

This post shares some of these tough circumstances, but also will leave you with way more resources, communities and tools for empowerment in virtual spaces.

This past year we have seen examples of women, especially on Twitter harassed such as Ella Dawson, Dana Schwartz, and Leslie Jones. I know there are countless others. I dare you to read the comments on their Twitter feeds: from comfortable support to complete shock.

In the fall Twitter rolled out a new harassment reporting tool. As the Twitter blog details,

“The amount of abuse, bullying, and harassment we’ve seen across the Internet has risen sharply over the past few years. These behaviors inhibit people from participating on Twitter, or anywhere. Abusive conduct removes the chance to see and share all perspectives around an issue, which we believe is critical to moving us all forward. In the worst cases, this type of conduct threatens human dignity, which we should all stand together to protect.”

Abuse can be seen and experienced across the digital landscape. In 2014, Pew Research Center published a harassment study finding that 70% of adults have observed online harassment and 40% have personally experienced harassment online.

Examples include being called offensive names (27%), someone purposefully embarrassing them (22%), physically threatened (8%), Stalked (8%), harassment over time (7%) and sexual harassment (6%). Age increased these statistics, with 18-29 reporting harassment at 65% (Pew, 2014).

When looking at gender, men were more likely to be called names but by far women, especially those 18-29, had experienced severe harassment including sexual harassment and stalking. The other main difference between men and women is what Pew reports as, “they (women) do not escape the heightened rates of physical threats and sustained harassment common to their male peers and young people in general” (Pew, 2014).

I have had two major experiences with online harassment. The first was a YouTube video that used my name along with a number of expletives, including calling me names that started with “b” and “c.” Interesting enough, some high-profile YouTubers had also received this same video. I reported the video, and the account and the entire channel was deleted within a day. But by far, most of my struggles have been on Twitter.

Twitter Troubles

The other experience continues to happen, as my Twitter account has been ‘stolen’ or impersonated over 200 times. At one point there were 50 of me on Twitter. Thankfully, these accounts haven’t tweeted anything offensive and going through Twitter’s (slow) reporting process will eventually get them taken down.

Twitter’s new tool allows users to take back their accounts, not just reporting users but the ability to block harassing words, phrases or entire conversations. This is not a new idea – as YouTube settings allow for similar filtering.

What hopefully will re-focus Twitter’s efforts acting on harassment comes from the new hateful conduct policy that, “prohibits specific conduct that targets people by race, ethnicity, national origin, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, religious affiliation, age, disability, or disease.” If you report a tweet or user under this policy, it goes to the top to be reviewed.

But how bad can it really get? There are countless stories to share, but the most recent that got public attention – including causing Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey to respond directly involved Leslie Jones.

Twitter is known for having a troll problem, accounts that only seek to harass users and stir up controversy. The peak of Leslie Jones harassments came at the release of Ghostbusters late summer. Tweets that mentioned or were directed at her called her a primate, included pornography, resulted in the production of fake Leslie Jones accounts that tweeted hate, and more. One user, in particular, Milo Yiannopolouls – part of GamerGate who is known to support harassment of women – took to Twitter to attack Jones.

Yiannopoulos reacted with even more ammunition. One tweet calling her “barely literate.”

Leslie Jones supporters fired back, using hashtags just as #LoveforLeslieJ.

Even educators reached out to Jones. Amma Marfo, a prolific tweeter, writer, podcaster and leadership speaker posted the following:

Amma describes what transpired next, “I came to her defense with a tweet about how I loved that she was strong, but she shouldn’t have to be- people should be nicer. It got WAY more attention than I expected. Lots of re-tweets, likes, and messages of agreement came in, but lots of vitriol and hate came with it. I was called naive, stupid, unrealistic, and told to shut up…and those are just the comments that are fit to print.”

She went on to share,

“Insults were hurled at me based on gender, but also based on race. The deluge became so unsustainable that I had to activate the Quality Control mechanism that Twitter had deployed only days before. I appreciated it for the peace and space it created, but it does make interacting in that space different from how I used to.

Finally, Amma reflected, “Quality control only allows you to see responses from people you follow- which is a nice way to reduce noise but also limits my ability to find new people who may have found their way to my feed via a friend or other referral. Further, it quiets dissent in an odd way. I don’t want to exist in the sort of echo chamber that a Quality Control filter creates, I just want people to be civil and constructive. And for standing up for a fellow woman creator, I lost the ability to make that distinction.”

The quality control filter that Twitter implemented still exists, but like Amma’s original tweet beckons, “Terrible people should stop being terrible.

Milo ended up being banned from Twitter – as many alt-right/white supremacy accounts have since. Twitter received both praise and criticism for this.

Laura Pasquini, Lecturer in Learning Technologies in the College of Information at the University of North Texas and Researcher with The Digital Learning and Social Media Research Group at Royal Roads University, shared another detailed example to Leslie Jones and #GamerGate. She shared how Twitter trolls took over, “who thought it was great to flame me way too early in the morning before having my coffee.”

She went on to state that, “I think it is something we need to talk about and bring awareness about, particularly since some of us work in areas where trolling and attacks happen for work and research.” She shared a fantastic guide called the Best Practices for Conducting Risky Research and Protecting Yourself from Online Harassment.

Taking Back Tools for Chicks in Cyberspace

The likelihood of being a chick in cyberspace, and encountering harassment are real. What I find that keeps me engaged are people and organizations that use those same tools to bring women together.

For example, Laura Pasquini is also a founder of a fantastic podcast, #3Wedu: Women Who Wine in Education. The show is described as, “designed to uncork ideas and thoughts of what is happening with women in education.” They chat about barriers, mentorship, recognition, leadership, mentorship and empowerment all over the delight of a glass of wine.

More and more of these positive examples are “pouring” in across the interwebs. Below lists a few, but I have started a google doc to crowdsource even more. Please jump on and add even more!

No matter your gender identity – everyone deserves to be treated as a whole person, both physical or virtual locations. With statistics rising of bullying of all kinds, I implore you to take action especially if you see harassment happening to someone and report the behavior if it is happening to you. Watch out for your fellow cyber chicks.

Twitter, the company, can only do so much. It has to be the collection of users that want to take back the tool for real constructive dialogue and experiences to make a lasting impact.

Duggan, M. (2014). Online Harassment. Retrieved from http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/10/22/online-harassment/


Non-Education Specific 
  • Digital Communities

Amy Poehler Smart Girls

Summer Virtual Connection Circle – Facebook Group

The Lady Project

Girl Boss – Twitter Page

I am That Girl – Twitter Page

Girls on the Run

Malala Fund – Twitter Page

Women for Women International – Twitter

Women in the World 

  • Hashtags




Women 2.0



















  • Podcasts

Call Your Girlfriend

The Imposters

Girl Boss Radio

Black Girls Talking

Women of the Hour

The Guilty Feminist


Stuff Mom Never Told You

  • Organizations

Women 2.0

She Started It

Her Agenda

National Organization for Women

Actually She Can

Boss Babe

National Council for Research on Women


National Women’s History Project

Movemeant Foundation

Women for Women International

Keep a Breast Foundation

International Women’s Forum

Higher Education Pro Specific

  • Digital Communities

#3Wedu Podcast: Women Who Wine in Education

Women’s Leadership Institute Participants & Friends – Facebook Group

ACUHO-I Women in Housing Network – Facebook Group

NASPA – WISA Women in Student Affairs – Facebook Page

African American Women in Higher Education – Facebook Page

Oregon Women in Higher Education – Facebook Page

Women in Higher Education – Facebook Page

Higher Education Resource Services (HERS) – Facebook Page

ACPA – Coalition for Women Identities – Facebook Page

Women of Color in Student Affairs – Facebook Page

  • Organizations/Conferences for Higher Ed Professionals

Women’s Leadership Institute

American Association University Women


ACPA Coalition for Women Identities

Manicur Symposium

Advancing Women

Women Leaders in College Sports

National Asian American Pacific Women’s Forum

International Leadership Association (ILA) – Women & leadership Affinity Group

AAWCC: American Association for Women in Community College

The Institute for Research on Women & Gender (IRWG), University of Michigan Office of Research

  • College Student Women Digital Communities

Students Stand with Malala

Girls in Tech – Twitter

Girls Who Code – Twitter

Girls Incorporated

Movemeant Foundation – Twitter

She’s The First Campus Organization





  • Organizations/Conferences for college student women

AAUW’s National Conference for College Women Student Leaders

Actually She Can

She’s the First

Girls Write Now

Tackling Fake News in Higher Education


Fake News! Alternative Facts! These are phrases we are starting to hear each and every day. Now, more than ever, with the ease and access of using the internet, we are being bombarded with news and information that isn’t true. A recent survey conducted by Hunt Allcot and Matthew Gentzkow shows that 62% of US adults get their news from social media. With that number being so high, it is no wonder that people are taking advantage of this by producing fake, shareable content. The hard part is being able to sort through all of that and separate fact from fiction. As educators, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our students to research, analyze and critique information before posting, sharing or commenting. As much as it is the responsibility of news organizations to present the facts and accurate information, it is our responsibility as readers and citizens of the world to do our research and concluding opinion.

As educators, we have a responsibility to ourselves and our students to research, analyze and critique information before posting, sharing or commenting. As much as it is the responsibility of news organizations to present the facts and accurate information, it is our responsibility as readers and citizens of the world to do our research and concluding opinion.

Here are some tools that you can use to help you navigate through the abundance of information and content being thrown your way:

    • Read the website name. While this may seem like a simple concept, you would be surprised how many people don’t actually read the name of the website they are looking at. With a few letters rearranged or changing the .com part, what you thought was a reputable website can easily become a hoax. For example, MSNBC.com is a real news website whereas some hoax websites are MSNBC.co or MSNBC.website. If you are quickly clicking and not paying attention, you may not notice that simple difference. Also if a website is called clickhole.com do you really want to trust that?
    • Fact check the content. Websites like Snopes and Politifact can help you figure out what is fact and what is fiction. While an article may have some information right, it could also have added to that information or exaggerated that information.
    • Search major news networks. Although we may each have our own preferred news organization, it is important to look at other major networks and see what they are saying about the information. This will allow for multiple perspectives on the information. Additionally, if you find an article with information that isn’t found on ANY of the major networks, then it’s most likely not credible.
    • Understand, Practice, and Teach Media Literacy. Media literacy is “the ability to access, analyze, evaluate, and create media.” Organizations like the Media Literacy Project and the Center for Media Literacy have great resources for understanding this concept and developing critical thinking skills.
    • Follow this checklist:
      • Do you know who the source is, or was it created by a common or well-known source? Example National Geographic, Discovery, etc.
      • How does it compare to what you already know?
      • Does the information make sense? Do you understand the information?
      • Can you verify that the information agrees with three or more other sources that are also reliable?
      • Have experts in the field been connected to it or authored the information?
      • How current is the information?
      • Does it have a copyright?

(Source: 5 Ways Teachers are Fighting Fake News, NPR.org)

At the end of the day, seeing is not always believing.

While it would be nice to scroll through our timelines and know that we could trust everything we were seeing, that is just not the case.  For years we have known that tabloids such as The Sun, National Enquirer, and Globe have been producing fake and outlandish content. So why are we not approaching social media sites and fake news websites the same way? Yes, it takes a bit more time on our ends, to research, navigate and sort through the information, but it is our responsibility to know what we are saying and sharing before we do.

In education, another “fake news” situation we have to look out for is fake and parody twitter accounts. More and more, college presidents are being impersonated on twitter and parody accounts such as @AcademicsSay, @SAproblems or unofficial class pages are becoming increasingly popular. After the recent election, we have also seen “rogue” and unofficial Twitter accounts such as the @Alt_DeptofED and @AltStateDpt

Practicing the concept of media literacy will help us and our students navigate through these as well. It is important to teach the concept of satire and humor as well, to differentiate that from real, official news and updates.

Websites such as MarketWatch create graphics like this to show the spectrum of media outlets. While these can be slightly biased, it is still a good conversation starter. 


How have you been navigating fake news or social media accounts on your campus? Easybib.com has created a useful infographic for educators to share these tips and tricks with their students. What have you been doing to educate yourself and your students? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below.

Adventures in Podcasting

Last fall, I started a new creative adventure – a podcast. I began to lack an interest in blogging and my audience of readers and followers seemed to long for something more too. As an educator, I knew I still wanted to create and share content – so I went out exploring other options: YouTube, live streaming, and podcasting were my top picks.

YouTube felt super intimidating to pursue. I was already helping my partner with his live streaming show, which was encountering lots of challenges. Then, after deciding those options may not be a fit, I finally started listening to podcasts. Yes, that’s right – I was NOT an early adopter of podcasts. Not even close. Even after being a guest on four shows, I kind of resisted them.

According to the Pew Research Center report, since 2013, US monthly podcast listeners have grown from 12% to 21%. While this number has doubled, it still leaves out 79% of the US population. However, when looking at those that have ever listened to a podcast, this rises to 36%. The research credits this increase to the accessibility to mobile devices and high-speed internet. Libsyn is a hosting platform that eases podcasters’ distribution of content out to places like iTunes, Google Play, Stitch and more. In 2015, Libsyn reported download numbers have doubled since 2012. Part of this gain in popularity is due to the number of podcasts doubled since 2012 (12,000 in 2012 to 28,000 in 2015). Learn more about the survey results here.

The Imposters Podcast

The primary reason I finally started listening to podcasts was because I finally knew people producing them. Enter The Imposters Podcast. Amma Marfo, Becca Fick, Mallory Bower and Sue Caulfield. Pause please, and go subscribe.

Now enter my podcast – Josie and the Podcast. This title is the result of crowd-sourcing name suggestions, hundreds of Google searches for “How do you…”, dozens of YouTube tutorials, purchases from Amazon including a larger hard drive, Blue Yeti microphone, three software programs – and, let’s be honest, a lot of freaking time.

josie-itunesSo far I’ve produce ten episodes – featuring campus leaders and new media pioneers who are digital influencers and innovators. From Senior Vice Presidents on Snapchat to YouTubers receiving billions of views, all interviews are through the lens of social media and leadership. The project has truly been an adventure – attempting to learn how to podcast through the highs and lows of experimentation and exploration.

The latest podcast episode features one of the creators of The Imposters – Amma Marfo. We hope you’ll check it out! Subscribe on iTunes, Stitcher & Google Play!

Since releasing my first episode, I’ve lost track of the number of colleagues, friends, and family that have asked me about how to start a podcast. At first. I was l like – “Well, I don’t know, I’m still figuring that out!” I also get asked a lot about the higher education/student affairs podcasts people should follow. So, I’m going to list out everything I use and a list of shows you might want to check out. Next, I’m putting some other higher education professionals on the spot who I believe SHOULD be producing a podcast – even if it isn’t entirely about education. And then finally a few resources.

My equipment

**Some of this equipment was from recommendations, others trial and error.

Podcasts for Your Playlist

**Not necessarily all about higher ed – these may also be heavy on the tech side

—Please comment below to suggest others to add! Are you podcasting – please let us know!

Who SHOULD be podcasting

**When I think about a handful of higher ed professionals who are amazing storytellers, leaders and content creators  – these are a few names that come to mind. This is in NO way exhaustive and I would love to hear from you who else should be podcasting in Higher Ed! Please also keep in mind this is just my humble opinion, not representative of the entire Digital Leadership Network.

—Who do you want to ‘hear’ podcasting in 2017??

Helpful tutorials and articles to get started:

**A number of these were passed on to me, a few more are resources I’ve collected through my podcasting adventures.

Win-Win-Win: Conflict, Power, and Privilege (Part 2)

Picture courtesy of filminvasio.com

In our last blog, we discussed three different strategies for conflict resolution:

  • Win-Win (We both win)
  • Win-Lose (I win, and you lose)
  • Lose-Lose (I lose, but I take you down with me)

Feel free to read the article if you haven’t already.  Today, I want to engage in conflict resolution through a lens of equality and inclusion that seeks to dismantle power and privilege.

Because employing one of the three strategies above isn’t always about caring about the other person, it is sometimes about getting needs met and protecting ones’ humanity.  Looking at the strategies above from a place that assumes everyone has equal power and privilege, my previous blog makes sense.  But we don’t live in a vacuum.  We live in the world (and in a field) today, which is steeped in systems designed to keep power and privilege in comfort for those who have it.

As a white, cisgender, heterosexual man, I have the privilege to find spaces where people will approach me from a default win-win conflict resolution strategy. On social media, although the default is sometimes win-lose, people are quick to give me the benefit of the doubt because my profile picture presents me as white.  My profile also makes it easy to see I am married (to a person who presents as a woman) with five children – all children who present as female.  Because I generally have privileged identities, I can choose not to worry about how my different identities are playing out.  My identities give me the advantage of “winning” because people make assumptions that are generally positive.  They also assume I am engaged in win-win conflict strategy even when I may not be.

Those with marginalized identities engaged in online conversations don’t always have this advantage.  At “best” (and this is like saying earwax jelly beans are better than vomit jelly beans for you Harry Potter fans) when we can’t see certain identities, assumptions get made to erase those marginalized identities (for example; assuming someone’s gender or sexual identity).  At worst when we CAN see someone’s marginalized identity (for example; the color of their skin or someone who has pictures of them always in a wheel chair) assumptions get made as to the approach they will take in a conflict (this presents itself with internal dialogue for those with privileges – “obviously, that individual is using a win-lose strategy here because they are only looking out for their identities and ignoring what might be in MY best interests”).  All of these assumptions are made in a split second, and often times before the person we are engaging with has a chance to write something because we look at their profile picture. When we read a comment from someone who presents differently than ourselves this is the lens (in many cases – not all) we use at least initially.

Given this dynamic, I would understand being exhausted and angry if people made these assumptions about me.  I would understand defaulting to win-lose strategies of conflict if I was constantly under attack and being oppressed in online spaces.  Especially when the entire system (including higher Ed and student affairs) is set up as a win-lose system in many ways for marginalized identities.  If my boss is engaged in win-lose strategies of conflict resolution with me, I’m kind of at a loss.  Power is everything, and we need to understand this, ESPECIALLY when discussing conflict resolution.

In conclusion, as I reflect on my privilege and power, it is important to add one more dimension to this conflict resolution repertoire: looking for lose-win strategies because of my identities.  This is the hard reality many of us with these privileges don’t want to see.  As the invisible knapsack has taught us, I can’t empower a woman without giving up my power as a man.  And although I am NOT REALLY creating a lose-win strategy for myself (because we all win when power structures are equalized and privileged systems are dismantled) I do need to understand giving up my power and privilege is the heart of the work I do as a white, cisgender, heterosexual man.  In each online conversation, I need to focus first on how I can help others win, instead of worrying about my own game.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Dialogue?  Feel free to comment!

Win-Win-Win: Strategies for Social Media Success – (Not really) – Part 1

Image Credit: Wikipedia

Recently on social media, I have been very engaged in dialogues around social justice topics.  At the same time, I have been discussing online conflict privately with some individuals.  Something I’ve been chewing on…

When we train on conflict resolution in face to face interactions, we talk about (in general) three different strategies:

  • Win-Lose (One of us wins, the other loses)
  • Lose-Lose (We both lose)
  • Win-Win (We both win)

These strategies tend to be universal when it comes to conflict (unless you are Michael Scott in “the Office” – you additionally have win-win-win).  There are other nuanced strategies, but these three tend to be most accepted.

When it comes to online conflict, I rarely see win-win strategy.  It’s like people default to win-lose, and if that doesn’t work they go to lose-lose.

I wonder whether this is because of the medium itself (social media) or because win-win is a hard strategy which invests a lot of energy and people want a break from it online.  Whenever a conflict comes up at work, when I’m at my best, I try to find solutions from a win-win perspective.  It can be tiring and exhausting.  At home, with my partner and with my children, I try (again, when I am at my best) to find win-win solutions (although I need to admit I struggle a lot more to be my best at home).

When I first started engaging online, I didn’t really want to do the work involved in win-win because I wasn’t as invested in the other person I was engaging with the way I would be in face to face interactions.  Mainly because in the early days of digital interactions (telnet and ICQ should tell you how old I am and how long I’ve been on the interwebs) I could just turn off my computer, change my login name (from something like Manilowfan12 to RogerStaubach12) and then start over.  Or I could block this unknown person.  Either way I wasn’t invested because I didn’t know them, and they didn’t know me.

Today this is a little different.  On Facebook, my profile is connected with me.  I can’t just change my login if I make a mistake, or don’t like the results of my online interactions.  There are potential consequences for how I engage with conflicts.  Because of this, I have discovered that win-win conflict strategies are crucial on social media.  This is generally my goal on social media and when I engage with others about difficult subjects (again when I’m at my best).  Social media can be a very self-absorbed world; what will these words mean for how people see me?  What will people think of me when I post this picture?

We rarely (or at least I) struggle to ask the question “how will these words impact others?” Or “how might these memes make other people feel?” When I’m at my worst, those questions rarely come up.

These principles may not be universal to everyone, but they are salient for me.

So far, we haven’t discussed an important component to all of this.

When we look at conflict resolution through a lens of equality and social justice, there is another dimension at work; power and privilege.  Because employing a win-lose or lose-lose strategy isn’t always about a lack caring about the other person, it’s about getting needs met and protecting ones’ humanity.  We will discuss this more in a few days with Part 2.

Until then, feel free to comment on how you see issues of power and privilege could impact conflict resolution strategies and the lenses we use to interpret them.

The President, the Press, & Protests

My first year at college I wanted to be a journalist. I was interested in covering the stories of my community, and shedding light on truth was important to me. Shortly after, however,  I took a Media & Communications class. I distinctly remember sitting in the lecture hall with a panel of journalists from various media that my professor arranged for us one class. The panelists spoke about how politicized the field of journalism had become. This class was where I learned that corporations controlled coverage, and depending on what heads of news agencies felt deemed newsworthy, that was what reporters were told to write about or talk about on the 6 o’clock news.

I also was studying journalism at a time when papers were folding due to Internet news sources gaining readership and the consolidation of news outlets led to great uncertainty in the field. It was not long before I realized the field of journalism was not for me– the journalist’s “obligation to the tell the truth” was much more clouded and complex than I anticipated, the field more competitive, the emphasis was all about the ratings and bottom line.

A decade or so later, here we are. Within 24 hours or so of Donald J. Trump taking office as the President of the United States, a press conference is held at the White House where Press Secretary Sean Spicer spoke for the first time since the inauguration to media representatives. His message was to call news outlets out for “attempts to lessen the enthusiasm of the inauguration” by comparing crowd sizes from 2013 to 2017. Calling out journalists for false reporting is something other administrations have not done so blatantly before. For this blog post, I am not interested in exploring “alternative facts” or whether or not crowd experts agree on the estimates for attendance at the inauguration ceremonies. Though I do encourage you to explore from multiple sources what is being said:




What I am interested in exploring, however, is taking a bird’s eye view about what’s going on. In my opinion, media attention on inauguration crowd sizes pulls attention away about other national news stories like the Women’s March  or executive orders that affect many Americans.

Time is money, and air time is a lot of money. When the media moves attention towards something, it means they are pulling the attention from somewhere, someone, or something else. And in a world where information is everywhere, there is so much chaos and noise– we need a reliable and respectable media to report on facts and pursue truth.

Trump has made it clear that the use of technology is important for him to bring a message directly to the people via Tweets (@realdonaldtrump), YouTube statements, and other forms of direct communication. We can likely expect in the months and years ahead that the Trump Administration will surely seek to pull the media’s attention and also work to bypass traditional sources of White House communication by relying on the use of technology.

That very same technology is what we, as citizens, can use to ensure we are educated and informed, and be our own truth tellers. For those of us who attended Student Affairs graduate programs, we may recall being often asked to cite sources (in APA style!). I remember a faculty member at my program, Loyola University Chicago, who said something like, “cite once and it’s an anomaly. Find evidence of a claim twice, it may just be coincidence. But if you back up your claim with at least three sources– now you’ve got my attention and a case for your argument.” So, in the spirit of being scholarly, I encourage all those reading/listening to stories to invoke some of these same sentiments. Indeed, this concept is something all of us– leaders of nations, politicians, journalists, and Facebook friends would benefit from keeping in mind. In sum, here are a few points I’d like to remind you:

  1. Cite sources: If you’re going to make a claim, you better be able to back it up! We are in a world where anything can be Googled. Don’t just speak on emotions or feelings, get the data…especially when what you’re saying may be about or impact large groups of people.
  2. (Almost) every story has an angle: Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get the unadulterated facts? Well, it’s not that easy. Remember what I said before about journalism and ratings? Corporations controlling the media? Well, every news source has an underlying agenda. Some may be more obvious than others. Look for middle of the road news outlets for information and don’t just go off of Facebook click-bait. Yes, it may be easy to do, but we know Facebook uses algorithms to tell you what you want to hear. It is tough and it may not always be perfect, but find the unbiased media like these to get your information and form your own educated understanding of the world.
  3. Tell your own story: Remember that lesson on primary sources versus secondary sources from grade school? Primary ones are the eye-witness accounts, and secondary sources are those who heard from the eye-witnesses, or maybe a letter or article about an event but not a first-hand account. The farther removed you are from the primary source the more room exists for interpretations, opinions, and things getting lost in translation. So why not set the record straight from your own point of view. Personal lived experiences are valuable real-life accounts. Sure, our perceptions are influenced by a thousand factors. But no one can deny that your understanding of your own story is true for you.

Perfect example of Number 3– I’ll share some of my own truth. I am a moderate, and have voted both Democrat and Republican in various elections at the local, state, and national levels. On Saturday, January 21st 2017 I marched in New York City for the Women’s March because, among other reasons, I want the President and his administration to understand that he works for ALL of us. His inauguration speech stated we are united in this country by being American. However, some of his campaign promises would remove rights that exist for various populations of Americans. We need each other. We need to shine the light on one another, especially those who have not had the privilege to live in the spotlight. This internal unity and commitment to one another resonated in my heart that afternoon. I was standing on 47th Street among the crowd and a woman behind me started singing, “Oh-oh say can you see…” I joined her. And by the time the song ended, voices in every direction were singing,”O’re the land of the free, and the home of the brave.” That moment, the unity Trump spoke about was electric. These were people who maybe did not agree with his promises or proposed policies, but indeed they were a crowd of patriotic Americans wanting what we all want for our country– peace, unity, and freedom.

This is my personal truth. My lived experience. I use my truth to guide my life, while recognizing my influence ends at the tip of my nose. Outside of that, we need dialogue. Compromise. Shared commitments. Collaboration. These are the things that must be present when it comes to impacting the lives of others. These are the necessary ingredients that can only be made when we consider multiple perspectives and go beyond ourselves to consider how another person experiences with world. Only after we consider multiple sources, opinions, viewpoints and lived experiences can we make decisions for one another, and with one another. We  do this because we are all a part of this incredible nation. And this incredible nation needs one another to be informed, engaged, and empowered. This country belongs to us, all of us. Let’s be aware of what impacts this beautiful country of ours, make our voices heard, and perhaps most importantly of all– let’s listen. Let’s really listen to each other, and seek to understand each others’ truth.



I Just Can’t Quit You

Cal Newport wrote an editorial for the New York Times in November (and even has a TEDTalk!) asking professionals to quit social media.  To quote Newport: “You should quit social media because it can hurt your career.”  Newport goes on to argue that social media serves as a distraction that carries with it little return on investment for the user in terms of career development and advancement.

I beg to differ. I can’t quit social media. I won’t quit social media. And neither should you.

Newport makes an argument about the value of social media in economic terms when he says “In a capitalist economy, the market rewards things that are rare and valuable. Social media use is decidedly not rare or valuable.”  The rewarding of the rare and valuable things is what economists term scarcity.  Social psychologists may draw the parallel to social scarcity, or the idea that humans assign greater value to an object or an action that is more rare.  Newport would argue that the redundancy – or the echo chamber – of social media detracts from professionalism or the unique qualities one desires in a high-achieving professional, thereby limiting its scarcity.  But what Newport misses is that social media does in fact allow for the limitation of social scarcity when used in creative ways.  The very thing that he argues makes you just like everyone else can actually set you apart.

I would venture a guess that 75% or more of my professional network is due to social media.  A vast majority of the programs, initiatives, and changes I have made in my department as a student affairs professional have been because of ideas shared in digital space and by colleagues I have only met on Twitter or have never seen face-to-face. The ideas they share with me and the lengths I go to in order to learn and connect online provide an added value to my professional development as well as my ability to do my job well for my employer.  I have made myself more valuable by expanding the network of those who contribute to my growth.

Newport uses a quote Steve Martin used to give aspiring entertainers to make his point – “Be so good that they can’t ignore you.”  Newport argues that you can make your impression as a professional regardless of your social network prowess.  But what if we were so good at social media that our bosses couldn’t ignore us?  What if we leveraged our networks to be more innovative, more creative, more courageous, and more productive?

Newport builds a case for social media being distracting – that the Pavlovian response to the dings and beeps of our smartphones can in fact inhibit professional engagement. However, there are ways to flip the script.

If smartphones are a distraction in your staff meetings or you feel like others are not taking advantage of their network connections, take the opportunity to be creative…

  1. Try gamifying an agenda item with Google. “Okay, everyone. Instead of talking about the educational program we are planning for February, you all have 10 minutes to search for the most creative program you can find and make it work for our specific outcomes. The three best ideas get funded $50 instead of $30.”
  2. Use Facebook Messenger for instant ideas. Have everyone get on Facebook Messenger and send a message to a colleague working in a similar functional area at another institution. Have them ask a question related to the specific agenda item and get an instant new idea!
  3. Use Snapchat to create digital minutes of the meeting. Set up a group on Snapchat and have someone take pictures or write quick one-line reminders about agenda items (e.g. “Turn in occupancy reports by 4 p.m!”) Share with the group for a burst of 10-second reminders that they can check later in the day.

Make your social networking part of the reason you are a unique, talented professional. Newport may think that social media “diverts your time and attention away from producing work that matters and toward convincing the world that you matter,” but what we produce in digital spaces is who we are and is valuable to our development and advancement.  Even if that means part of your job is to help others see the value.