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Myth Busters for dental assistants: People on social media are always helpful

July 26, 2021
Do you often turn to social media for answers? Remember that it's not always right, and talking to someone directly can be much more productive.

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Social media is the new encyclopedia. If you need to ask something or learn anything, just get on social media and post your question. People on there will be so helpful and informative! Right? Wrong!

I find it very strange that people don’t communicate with each other face-to-face, and more are comfortable turning to their keyboards and social media when they want to interact with others. The young generation often prefers to communicate digitally; they turn to social media to solve problems, ask questions, air their dirty laundry, and just about anything else you can imagine.  

The problem is that social media doesn’t always offer the correct answers. Yes, there are people online who are friendly and helpful, but everyone has their opinion, which many readily offer without being asked. How each of us respond to any given situation is completely different. What’s good for one person isn’t necessarily good for another. Many times, I’ll be reading dental assisting pages on Facebook that discuss someone’s problem at work. They’re upset about a situation and they’re searching for advice. As you can imagine, answers, opinions, and solutions vary widely.

Often, the issue is that people are not addressing their problems with those who can actually help them. If you have a problem, the best thing to do is discuss it with the person who’s causing the problem. Most people hate confrontation and will do anything to avoid looking someone in the eye and talking about a problem. We now turn to social media to gain sympathy and insights on how to handle our coworkers. A lot more can be done if we simply talk to our coworkers face-to-face.

Digital has replaced personal interaction

People are moving away from communicating in person. We call in sick from work via text, we leave our jobs via text, we find out we lost a job via text, and so on. But we all know that text and email are often misunderstood. Add a comma here and a period there, and we can read something wrong and completely misunderstand the point a person is trying to make. By dragging out our phones or laptops and typing away when we have a problem, we aren’t learning how to handle the problem. We’re learning how not to communicate with each other.

Experts say that 38% of what we say is heard in our tone, and 55% of what we say is in our body language. So, when we communicate digitally, we often aren’t communicating well. Have you ever played the game telephone? I remember as a young student that our teacher would sit us in chairs in a circle, and she’d whisper something in a classmate’s ear. That classmate whispered to the next person, who whispered to the next person, and so on.

By the end of the circle, the last person would say what the person had whispered in their ear out loud. It was never what the teacher had originally said to the first student. When the phrase went from person to person, everyone repeated what they thought they heard, and the phrase changed and became distorted. That’s often exactly what happens when we communicate digitally.

How to handle problems in person

When you’re upset about a situation, write down what happened and then gather your thoughts. I find this helpful because in the heat of an angry moment, I sometimes forget the little details. Wait to calm down, and if you aren’t comfortable talking to the person alone, ask the doctor or office manager if you can speak with the person with one of them present. Remember, you will handle this more professionally after you’ve settled down. State your case, and don’t do any name calling. Just refer to the facts that you wrote down, not what you think may have happened.

I’m not going to promise you that you’ll get the outcome you want every time, but by addressing the source, and not typing to people online you don’t even know, you’ll find a more helpful answer faster. Better yet, you’ll learn to communicate face-to-face. Computers can do many things, but they can’t replace the human connection that is so important to everything we do in life.

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About the Author

Tija Hunter, CDA, EFDA

Tija Hunter, CDA, CDIA, CDIPC, CDSH, CDSO, EFDA, MADAA, is a member and former vice president of the American Dental Assistants Association (ADAA), where she holds the honor of Master. She is the director of the Dental Careers Institute, a dental assisting and dental continuing education program, and the author of seven continuing education study courses. She is an international speaker and a certified trainer in nitrous oxide in several states. She can be reached at [email protected].

Updated January 12, 2024