Think Twice Before You Post on Social Media

By James Goldsmith | Aug. 14, 2020 | 3 min. read

Earlier this year, Pennsylvania’s Realtors®, like most across the country, found livelihoods threatened by executive orders to shut down business. Due in no small part to PAR’s advocacy, executive orders were amended and your business activity resumed, so much so that for many this is a banner year.

As positive as the business climate be for much your industry, the governor has come under fire and is the recipient of much criticism, some from association members deeply opposed to his actions. I get it, but I also do not underestimate the weight that all civic leaders bear as they wend their way through best practices, emerging science and pressure from lobbyists and the many business interests all seeking relief.

For nearly 40 years I, a lawyer and proud member of the bar association, have equally identified with local, state and national Realtor® associations. I am proud that the Realtor® family recognizes the aspirational objectives of a code of ethics, of the significance of the Fair Housing Act and that its members take pride in displaying the Equal Housing Opportunity logo. And while no one was given a blueprint for this pandemic, I’ve never seen an organization work as quickly and tirelessly as PAR in providing guidance and advocacy.

Then I saw a social media comment by a member suggesting – presumably tongue in cheek – that our governor be lynched (he didn’t use that word, but did reference rope and a big tree) for his having re-invoked business restrictions on bars and restaurants. Though the post was quickly removed I was not alone in the dismay and shame that welled, as it seemed that many read or heard about it.

Real estate professionals use social media for marketing purposes among others. Posts include information about professional affiliations, professional designations and experience. I’ve not seen one yet that says “don’t contact me if you like/dislike a specific politician, party, gender preference, etc.” So why publish unbecoming remarks that convey these very messages? Is it to change the minds of those holding different opinions? Weed out potential clients with differing orientation? These posts simply serve to anger or feed the rage depending on the predisposition of the reader. They do not pretend to educate or inform and, in fact, are devoid of… fact.

Freedom of speech is a hallmark of American life. But words are as powerful a weapon as any that may exist. Why waste them on vitriol and absurdity? The late Rep. John Lewis was clubbed and beaten for walking across a bridge, respectfully so and attired in a suit, weaponless and with hands hanging at his sides, not in fists. He might have earned the right to spew vitriol. He did not. His words were, beseeching, respectful and powerful. His words were not to debase, whether we agreed or not.

Perhaps the author of this comment – who happens to be a friend who has done much good for this profession through the years – would have done better by expressing reasoned thought and suggestion. Perhaps he could have grounded the argument in science or study or a thoughtfully crafted or clever opinion. Instead, he chose a metaphor most unseemly, now or anytime.

To be fair, I’m sure almost everyone regrets letting loose with some spoken or written missive at some point. But we must all strive to do better. I’ve spoken and written often on the use of social media. I know some members have read these articles because they send me examples of what I preach against. Not one example has changed my mind or moved me left or right.

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