Through social media we’re faced with an onslaught of information. While some may call it a blessing to have access to so many knowledgeable individuals, we as veterinary professionals know that this is most often not the case.
Everyday, I see people spreading false messages and it really grinds my gears. I feel compelled to speak up whenever I see someone giving treatment suggestions, breeding advice, nutritional recommendations, etc. My intentions are always good but in the heat of the moment I become a Facebook warrior.
I’m loud, opinionated, and passionate. At times I can be rather blunt and abrasive. While I don’t mind these character traits, they used to get me into trouble. Sometimes my heart spoke without censorship. This resulted in social media arguments about topics that are important to me: animal rescue, population control, research, welfare, livestock, etc. I felt as though it was my responsibility, as an educated individual (in these matters at least) to correct people when they were wrong.
You may think that I am righteous in my stances, or that I’m just downright obnoxious. Things used to be very black and white with me. I didn’t look too kindly on backyard breeders or animal rights activists. I took every opportunity to let these people know how I felt about them. It was easy to start an argument when I always felt as though I was right. I felt entitled to my opinion and that it was my way or the highway. It’s unfortunate to say that it took me a while to realize the fault in my actions.
One day I became very aware of the consequences. I had been arguing with someone about animal welfare and why it was wrong to sell unvaccinated puppies at five weeks of age. Things got a little heated and they decided to investigate my background. “I see you work at a veterinary hospital. You’re harassing me. I should contact your employer.”
Upon reading this I panicked! As quickly as I could I deleted my posts and blocked the user. Who would’ve thought a harmless Facebook spat could result in me being reprimanded by my boss?! Luckily, nothing came of it, but it was a rude awakening.
Life changes when you join the professional community, especially in veterinary medicine. You are now seen as a role model. Your point of view is valued and you are expected to represent the field. This is a heavy burden to bear especially when you are still maturing, like myself.
Now I’m not saying that we should be any less passionate or change our opinions. Instead, we should simply be aware of the way we conduct ourselves, especially over social media. This might sound like common sense to some, but it is not unusual to see veterinary professionals hashing it out with the public.
It is difficult to hold back, especially when we love animals so much. We are emotionally tied into our work and it is easy to speak before we think of the possible implications of our actions.
In the future I hope we can continue to uphold our professional beliefs and communicate with the public. Information should be shared in a well-versed and conducive way. Instead of attacking and arguing, we can work together to educate. We do not need to agree all the time, but spreading awareness in a positive light is the key to success.
Paula Simons is a first year veterinary student and creator of the blog Beyond the Blue Coat. Before her time at Ontario Veterinary College she worked as a veterinary technician in small animal practice. She currently lives in Guelph, Ontario but is originally from Philadelphia, PA. In her free time, Paula enjoys photography and hiking with her dogs Liberty and Bristol.