“That is literally the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“She does not look like a Pilates instructor.”
“You clearly do not know what you are doing.”
These are only three of the many things I’ve read on social media over the past two weeks.
These are not political posts. These are not posts meant to spark debate.
They are simply posts written by some of my colleagues in the Pilates space.
They involve pictures or videos of certain movements, or possibly an honest assessment of a specific exercise or observation from teaching a class.
For the most part, these posts and people don’t mean to incite anger, and yet, somehow, they do.
I know this kind of negativity isn’t limited to our industry. I know it’s becoming more and more rampant across all of social media and in all areas. I’m addressing the Pilates world here simply because it’s one I inhabit both in my work and in my soul.
There are things in my beloved community I haven’t noticed until the past year, and it’s slowly breaking my heart for something I hold so dear.
Hate. Fear. Racism. Sexism. Loathing. Jealousy.
It oozes from the comments and posts and it’s making me extremely sad for an industry I adore.
Social media is an interesting thing.
On one hand, it’s brought the world so much closer than we ever could have imagined. We are able to share pictures and updates of our families and travels with people across the globe. We can connect with people from our childhood, college and past jobs who we would never be able to find otherwise. We can do business from a coffeeshop or the beach or on top of a mountain. We can learn and broaden our horizons and connect in ways never known before.
We can also talk.
I myself am a self-professed talker. I love to over-explain and get my feelings out through words. I understand the freedom that comes from expressing ourselves to an audience that can’t necessarily see the tears in our eyes while we talk or interrupt us by asking questions.
And that’s the trouble.
It’s too easy to hide behind a keyboard. To cloak oneself in supposed anonymity.
To lose all sense of accountability and spew whatever words come to mind at anytime.
We stop thinking of people as human when we only converse through a computer or phone.
And we can conveniently forget about manners, politeness, listening, and humanity when we are only talking to a screen.
I would guess that these discussions would be drastically different if we all had them in person.
If you’ve been to the PMA conference – or any amazing workshop or training – you know the positivity and camaraderie it can bring. You don’t care about where someone lives, what teaching background they have or how many followers they’ve cultivated. You just want to talk about that last awesome workshop with new reformer exercises, or how you deal with that one client who constantly cancels, or how you had too many drinks at the Pilates Anytime party last night (we’ve all been there :).
You are PEOPLE. First and foremost. You share an excitement and love for your career of choice. Yes, you may have differences such as your training background or what kinds of clients you teach. But you have discussions face to face. You are seeing a person in front of you at the same time you are being seen as a person.
You may not agree with the instructor presenting, but you don’t stand up and yell “You don’t deserve to be here!” in the middle of the conference in front of hundreds of other people.
You don’t get on a loudspeaker and discuss the presenter’s weight and what they are wearing.
So why do we do it on Facebook?
When did we decide that was ok?
Let me tell you in case you’ve forgotten in our social media obsessed world.
It’s NOT ok.
It’s ok to disagree. It’s ok to debate.
It’s NOT ok to attack and judge and spread hate.
I understand there are times that a debate occurs and we may want to jump in. I’m not saying everything on social media should be roses and puppies, because this is real life, and real life is hard. But there are ways in which we can work together to make things easier.
If you are feeling a need to contribute to a contentious discussion on social media, may I make a few recommendations?
I used to answer all emails immediately, especially if one happened to piss me off. It’s my fiery nature. More than once I woke up the next day and regretted my tone and what I had written. I finally learned to wait at least 4 hours before responding to something that made me that angry. It gave me time to cool down, look at it from a different angle and take it all less personally. This strategy has never done me wrong, and I try my best to use it on social media as well.
2) Think of the person you are talking to as your mom
Weird, I know, but I’m telling you it works. I do this in my car. If I am behind someone driving REALLY slow and I find myself getting anxious and annoyed, I picture the driver as my mom. Would I give her a glare and honk, or would I be a little more patient and understanding? Maybe instead or your mom you picture the person as your child. Do whatever helps you to give some humanity to the individual on the other end of the computer.
3) Be purposeful in adding to the discussion
Are you talking just to talk? Are your responding just so people see your name and profile picture? Are you simply looking for more followers? Then I recommend staying silent. If you have something valuable to contribute that no one else has said, and you have already taken the above steps, then, by all means, post away.
I’m not naive enough to think I can solve this problem. I simply know it’s becoming more and more rampant and it’s taken more and more of my attention lately. There are times I want to walk away and simply cancel all social media accounts, but I can’t. I have a job that requires a social media presence and, more than that, this is a community I love. Some of my closest friends are here, as well as people who stretch me and help me grow.
I won’t leave.
I hope you don’t either.
I want us to all work together to spread the good in our industry. If you are not in the Pilates world but see this happening in your own neck of the woods, be the one to help change it. See others as human. See others as real. See others as sitting across the table while you shared a cup of coffee or a glass of wine.
And if you would never share coffee with that person? That’s cool, too. Agree to disagree and find your tribe. We don’t all have to like each other.
But the hate and spite and vitriol must stop.
Clients see it. Other industries see it. Possible teachers and students see it.
It’s not helping us step into our full potential as people and as a healing modality.
Please be responsible for the energy you bring into a space and the words you do or do not chose to say. You will then be encouraging others to do the same.