Being an Advocate Means Being a Target

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Being a nurse involved with social media certainly has its challenges. Once you get over the fear of losing your job for your blog or twitter account, there is a honeymoon period. During this time you feel empowered and exhilarated by your ability to have a voice and make an impact online. You use this voice to make an impact on the issues that matter to you and your profession.

True advocacy means making a difference

I’ve blogged about nursing students who are kicked out of the nursing programs for posting images of a placenta on facebook. They were expelled after first asking their instructor for permission and then removing the images promptly when asked. I’ve written about a learning opportunity was turned into a fiasco and how things could have been done differently. I’ve blogged about the importance of having social media policies, especially in healthcare organizations because good policies make all the difference.

Then, I blogged about the need for nurses to not be afraid to advocate for their patients; Nurses like Amanda Trujillo strike a personal and deep chord on my heartstrings. I felt the need to share her story with the world. We are all equal team players in healthcare. When we don’t stand up for one nurse, we break an unspoken partnership.

I’ve had such a positive experience in being a nurse blogger. I’ve had the ability to educate many about social media in healthcare and how it is a useful tool that we should not fear. I’ve tried to use my nursing blog for good and promote positive causes.

Unfortunately, this does sometimes point the finger at organizations and ask them to be accountable for their actions. I’ve done this in the name of nurse advocacy, because, that’s what I believe in. If you haven’t already noticed, I am a patient, nurse, and technology advocate. I’m here to speak out for others.

Being an advocate has made me a target

When you speak out for or against anything it leaves you vulnerable for attack. It’s one of the many reasons that some choose to be silent. I live my life with a motto that doesn’t allow me to be silent or hide behind society’s ‘norms.’ The signature of my emails includes the following:

“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.


Being Personally Attacked via Social Media

Capture30 You can see that I retweeted this originally.

I thought it was a tweet of support. Then the tweets started to increase in their negatively and started blatantly attacking me. Upon deeper reflection with the nagging feeling inside my gut, they felt like harassment. Then this person started tweeting my professional contacts. I felt as though he crossed the line.

It is one thing to have a conversation with someone that you disagree with, but remain respectful. I enjoy a lively debate. It’s quite another to attempt to destroy an individual’s reputation and I could hardly believe I was the individual being attacked.

Why the Attack?


Everyone is entitled to their opinions. We all know that not everyone is going to agree with my opinion. Some people feel the need to react negatively and with insults, profanity, and personal attacks. The fact is, I know that being an advocate makes me a target. It doesn’t make the verbal assaults hurt any less.

One can only assume that passion got the best of this individual and he responded in the heat of the moment and felt that personally attacking me and attempting to take away from my credibility boosted his own self-confidence for a moment or two. I can’t pretend to know why, and we all know what we become when we assume things.


You Cannot Silence a True Advocate

I’ve been fortunate to have very few experiences with internet trolls. While I don’t expect for everyone to agree with me or my stance on nursing and social issues, I do think that the issues should be the focus, not the individual.

As nurses we have a duty to advocate for our patients.

There is something that exists deep inside that makes me naturally passionate and an advocate for the issues and people I care about. It’s these values that make me a good nurse and a lover of social media.

Using Your Voice Online For Good

Social media gives you a voice. It gives you the ability to have influence and reach an audience much larger than you might have otherwise. So I encourage you to be thoughtful with your use of social media. Be aware that your words have reach and influence. Be passionate and be and advocate. Attack issues and not individuals. Find a way to make your message a positive one, even if a negative message or issue is being addressed.

Please, use social media for good and not evil.


images: Defending your digital workplace and io9

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5 thoughts on “Being an Advocate Means Being a Target”

  1. Trolls offer more heat than light, more noise than thought, and more anger than anything else. Humans act like trolls sometimes, but i take it as a positive, albeit unpleasant, indicator of progress – the only advocacy apt to attract trolls is one attracting many others, and the anger often seems directly in proportion to the impact and traction of the message.
    Speaking of Mike above, we actually had a fine debate one recent night, rather by accident on my part – just ran into each other both Tweeting at the same time on the same topic. Tweets flew in rapid succession, and we actually made some real progress – not exactly warm fuzzies, but we found some common ground and mutual respect. As a Psych Nurse, I don’t look for mental illness everywhere – really! – but I do know that one presentation is often just a facet of the whole person, surprisingly often open to change with respectful and gently positive influence. Unfortunately, as great as Social Media is for communicating and connecting in quantity, it remains weak quality compared to more direct interaction, where prompt feedback for clarification can reduce the burden of misunderstandings and grudges. Mike had made some surmises that were plausible in a way but inaccurate, e.g. that Amanda and her supporters must be union activists – traditionally unions have often been the ones to speak of unity, raising your voice, fighting for workers, etc. Now Social Media can take on some of these same tasks, without much of the baggage: regulations, the risks and pain associated with strikes and such traditional organized labor tactics, and the costs, caution, and slow reaction-time associated with bureaucracy. We live in exciting times: folks like The Nerdy Nurse exert power and positive influence, and provide useful public services formerly provided only by the large organizations with the resources for expensive and often capital-intense reporting, advocacy, publishing, etc. Today, all theses have become virtually free in comparison, and the main cost remaining is individual time, which many of us happily offer for free. It is a sign of our growing success that angry letters to the newspaper of TCV news editor, politician or NGO official are now falling on out virtual doorsteps. Its an often irritating reminder that we have arrived: for this reason I thank and encourage trolls everywhere for their unwittingly inspiring posts.

    That said, Rock On, Nerdy Nurse, Rock On!

  2. Well said.
    As I am just starting out in the blogosphere, I haven’t received any negative reactions- any reactions actually- but I’m prepared. My motto will be something I’ve heard somewhere before: “please don’t feed the trolls”.

    1. Tom,

      Not feeding the trolls is the best possible coarse of action. Sometimes those trolls are awfully load when demanding their table scraps and it’s hard to ignore.

      Good luck with your blog. It’s been such a great experience for me.

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