Rules of the Road for Social Media

These are useful.  However, never let politeness and political or commercial “correctness” get in the way of the facts — however, inconvenient.  Incivility and and putting “psonalities before principals” just waste energy.

1. “When criticizing a colleague, try to begin your critique with something appreciative and positive—-or at least neutral–such as, “Dr. X. raises some very timely and important questions in his/her thoughtful essay.”

2. Try not to write anything about your colleague that you would not feel justified in saying to his or her face, at a professional conference (and bear in mind, that’s where the two of you may meet next!)

3. Never dash off an email or blog comment in a fit of anger; rather, write a draft version “off line”; reflect upon it; revise if necessary; and send only after a suitable “cooling down” period.

4. Always consider having a colleague read over any critique that leaves you feeling uneasy or slightly “guilty” regarding statements about another person.

5. Always phrase your criticism in terms of ideas or behaviors, not your opponent’s character or mentality; eg, say, “The notion that we should use that approach is misguided, in my opinion”, not “Dr. X is totally out of his mind!”

6. Try to include some points of agreement with your opponent, if you can legitimately find any (and look hard for them!)

7. Hard as it may be, try to attribute a benign intention or motivation to your opponent; eg, “Dr. X clearly intends to protect the welfare of the general public; however, in my view, her approach may lead to serious problems.” (“In my view” is a good mantra to recite).

8. Always try to summarize your opponent’s view in a fair and convincing manner, while allowing for the possibility that you have misunderstood his position. (In the Talmud, the School of Hillel garnered more approval than did its opponents, the School of Shammai, because in writing their opinions, the Hillelites typically began by accurately stating the Shammaites’ point of view).

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