The following represent basic civility tenets that any professional — irrespective of expertise, area of practice, or personal values — should adopt in public fora, including social media. As professionals in the field of Communication Sciences and Disorders with a vision of “Making effective communication, a human right, accessible and achievable for all,” we can serve as models of civility in communications by subscribing to this framework. For practical information on how to converse on digital platforms and maintain civility, please refer to the ASHA Civility Digital Toolkit.
Demonstrating respect: The discipline of CSD is constantly evolving, in terms of research, practice, culture, and understanding. There are times when colleagues may not agree, and issues about which there may never be unanimity. Still, it is never beneficial for the profession when ASHA members publicly and disparagingly criticize their peers. ASHA’s Code of Ethics provides that harmonious relationships with colleagues is part and parcel of our obligation to each other and to patients and clients. As a vehicle for engagement and connection, social media should not be used for disrupting fellow colleagues’ engagement with their communities. Practitioners who feel compelled to question the content of a fellow colleague should do so in a private message, recognizing that it is the recipient’s choice whether to engage in further conversation.
Encouraging constructive dialogue: When professional discussions unfold on digital platforms, attention should focus on the issue or topic at hand and never descend into the belittlement of participants or their character, intelligence, culture, or opinion. Constructive dialogue fosters greater insight and understanding, even if one’s opinion or position on a matter ultimately remains unchanged. Whereas public antagonism and divisiveness dishonor the professions, and are a disservice to the more than 211,000 members and affiliates, constructive engagement among peers demonstrates professionalism to both consumers and other practitioners — and sets an example for future CSD professionals as well as those just beginning to consider a career in the professions.
Discouraging public belittling of colleagues: Professional peers should not encourage the humiliation or bullying of other professionals by “liking,” retweeting or sharing content that is discourteous or disrespectful. Further, colleagues who witness such behavior towards fellow colleagues, even those with whom they may disagree, might consider extending support to that colleague for articulating their positions and engaging in the conversation. Individuals should be able to participate in social media without the threat or fear of being ostracized by their colleagues, whose opinions or perspectives may differ.
Modeling professionalism: Audiologists and speech-language pathologists are not only recognized experts in communication sciences, but also colleagues in a distinguished discipline that is 204,000 strong and growing. Just as in work environments and professional settings, the words used, messages expressed, and behaviors demonstrated on digital platforms not only reflect the competencies and conduct of the individual, but the values and credibility of the entire profession. Therefore, it is crucial that strong examples of personal conduct and professional behavior be set for current and future practitioners.