Rebecca Neilson, BS
As a senior dental hygiene student, I may be young and bright-eyed in the world of dental hygiene, but I am ready to hit the ground running! After becoming a member of several dental hygiene Facebook groups that are made up of thousands of dental hygienists nationwide, I have been impressed with the overall supportive online environment. At the same time, I have been surprised by the negativity that sometimes arises. Too often there are comments on benign posts—condescending remarks about another RDH’s “lack of knowledge,” bossy advice in response to a plea for ideas, attacks on another’s character, and other unsavory interactions. There will always be posts with which we disagree, but instead of instilling negativity through contentious and intimidating comments, apply the following mantra: “Don’t troll, just scroll.”
The term “troll” has gained popularity in recent years to describe people who create hostile or antagonistic online environments. Wikipedia states that more recently trolls have been equated with online harassment.1
I understand that sometimes people need to vent to others who understand the daily struggle. For this reason, these online groups can be tremendously beneficial. Many posts are hilariously entertaining. Others are so emotionally raw and relatable that many want to jump through our screens to hug the person who shared their experience. Some share dilemmas between two good and justifiable options. However, I think it is safe to say that few are posted with the intent to elicit aggressive, demoralizing, or patronizing comments. These groups, after all, were meant to be support networks, not unsupport networks.
Here are a few suggestions to keep in mind as we “don’t troll, just scroll” the dental hygiene social media networks.
1. Not everyone has the same amount of experience. The level of experience among social media users range from retired RDHs to prospective DH students. While this suggestion seems obvious, it is easily forgotten when a post seems to ignite an emotional fire in us. While a solution may seem obvious to some, to others it could be totally unclear! Using phrases such as “in my experience,” “the way I see it,” and “personally” helps to soften statements to allow us to share thoughts and ideas without coming across as confrontational or arrogant. Please remember to be kind and assume that the person who posted only has the best of intentions.
2. Focus on the question. It would be wise for each of us to make a habit of focusing on responding to the question and not making assumptions about the question. Here is an example:
A female RDH posts asking if there are extra precautions that can be taken to avoid the transmission of HIV from a patient to a clinician. Take a moment and ask yourself, “What is she asking? And what is she not asking?” Your answers may look something like this:
What she is asking: Are there extra precautions that can be taken to prevent transmission of HIV from the patient to a clinician?
What she is not asking: Will you please be critical of the fact that I do not have as much experience as you do in trusting physical barriers and universal precautions? Also, will you please assume that I am purposely discriminating against people who have HIV?
When focus is placed on answering the initial question, comments are much more productive than if assumptions are made on the intent of the question.
3. Support one another. Although we are all strangers, we are united in our career choice. To some, dental hygiene is a passion. To others, dental hygiene is a job that provides income to pursue their passion. Most people who post on dental hygiene groups on social media are seeking support. Whether that support comes from a comment, a thumbs-up, a private message, or holding our tongue, we can do our best to follow through. Choose to be supportive, not unsupportive. And, rather than saying something critical, please remember: “Don’t troll, just scroll.”
These suggestions can be helpful not only when applied to social media usage, but in peer and coworker relationships as well. As dental hygienists, we should be professional both in and out of the workplace. Although the anonymity of social media can remove our filters and cause us to speak a little more freely, when we see posts that describe something we disagree with, a question that seems obvious, or a plea for advice, please remember: “Don’t troll, just scroll.”
1. Internet troll. Wikipedia website. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Internet_troll. October 22, 2019. Retrieved November 8, 2019.
Rebecca “Becca” Neilson, BS, grew up in Provo, Utah. She graduated from Brigham Young University in 2014 with a BS in biology. She is happily married and lives in Elkhart, Indiana. Becca’s long-time hobby is arranging flowers, and she currently works as a florist. She is excited to graduate and receive her licensure in May 2020. She thrives on interpersonal relationships and finds satisfaction in helping others learn. You can reach her at [email protected].