Why I Hate Social Media

Reading my blog, you may suspect that I hate social media.  I do.  I believe that our freedom of speech is one of the most abused freedoms granted in our country.  Social medial gives people the platform to slander, lie, and defame others.  But the worst abuse is not from those writing posts, but from the folks that believe that crap.

Watching the news is evidence that people have no filter.  We have become a society that cannot discern fact from fiction.  Worse, we are more likely to believe a lie than the obvious truth.

Social media provides a mechanism to boost our  own self importance.  We want to stand out and telling the truth just doesn’t provide the substance to become viral.  So, we have to state outlandish things.  People will believe them and will further spread the lie and future boost your online importance.

Animal welfare activists saw early on social media’s potential and exploited it.  They could get people to believe anything that they said, because we became a society too stupid to discern the lie, even when the truth is so obvious.  Social media became the means that our truth was whatever we posted.  As others have said, “Social media was dumbing down America.” 

People get so upset with foreign countries using social media to influence our elections, because we stupidly believe everything we read.  If we could gain back a lick of sense, like be had before social media, we could easily see through the sham.  If you want to find the truth, find someone who is not on social media.

Societal Evolution

I have always believed that a person’s integrity was one of the most important attributes of a person’s character.  I learned my value system at a young age and by the time that I had become an Eagle Scout, my value system was fully formed.  I was constantly dismayed at seeing the corrosion of our societal norms.

It should come as no surprise to you that I felt that social media corrupted good people.  Everyone wanted to be “center stage” and self-embellishment led to flat out lying.  Lying became so commonplace that I believe people began believing their own lies.  Lying just became a way of life.

News organizations no longer reported the news, but created the news and no one cared if the facts were right, as long as they fought for higher ratings.  Fake news became a commonly used term and news sources became a forum for reporters to push their own belief system.

One of my biggest failures, as pointed out by one of my employees, was that I placed too much trust in people, I always gave them the benefit of the doubt.  He was right.  I wanted to believe that people treasured their integrity.  I think I cared more for their integrity than they did.

I witnessed people going out of their way to fabricate lies.  I witnessed staff scheming against their supervisor in an effort to bully the supervisor into looking the other way to overlook their own incompetence.  I was dumfounded in getting a call from our HR Department in which staff wanted to draw attention to their supervisor by calling anonymously to HR, claiming that their supervisor(s) returned from lunch with alcohol on their breath; just to make the life of their supervisor miserable.  The claims were obviously false.  I was further dismayed that HR protected these troublemakers by claiming protection under whistleblower policies.  We are becoming an ugly society and societal norms protected these people under First Amendment Rights and Whistleblower policies.  We began to lose our organizational vision because we were constantly putting out infighting fires caused by hateful people.

It is discouraging to watch the daily news to see that we have become a society of over-reacting children in desperate need of parental guidance.  Animal welfare and politics seem to have so much in common.  We daily watch the confrontations that occur and wonder if anyone is going to step up and be the adult. 

This evolution of the degradation of society has taken its toll on me.  Although I have always been an introvert, I’ve now become a recluse.  I keep hoping to see the rise of role models to lead society back to honoring personal intregrity. 

Diplomacy

Managing an animal shelter demands the greatest diplomacy.  It is not a career in which your personal feelings on issues is welcome, nor is it safe to express them.  You have to hold it in until after you retire.

Even the most constructive words will find offense.  We live in a word in which everyone is hunting for an excuse to be offended.  By some freak of nature, I was passed along the genetic code that made me a “white male.”  To some, those phenotypic characteristics will earn me some labels that are not earned, deserved, or wanted.  So, diplomacy becomes even a greater concern.  To many, the fact that you look a certain way will cause people to shutdown to what you are saying and disreguard your words.

Along with diplomacy, balance is necessary.  Animal welfare is a fringe entity where people live on the outer boundaries.  As much as we try to maintain our footing in the middle, we will be constantly pulled to one fringe or another.  I think it is important to have a basic understand of another person’s position when looking for the proper diplomatic words; you can find it in an overview.

From the above overview animal control and animal welfare sits in the middle of the continuum as animal abuse and animal rights sit on in the fringe.  This fringe will become the groups that you will mostly deal with and communications will become the most difficult.  As you carefully select your words, keep in mind that these folks will not give you any benefit of the doubt and will search our words to find offense. 

This is what makes your career so exciting.  To stay out of trouble during your career, guard your words.  As I mentioned earlier, if you have to “let it out,” write a blog AFTER you retire.  Those of you who are in the profession or thinking of getting into the profession, my guiding words to you is to treat all communication as if it might be on the front page of your local newspaper or circulated on social media, because they probably will.

Giving Credit Where Credit is Due

Volunteers and staff are the backbone of any animal shelter program; however, an animal shelter usually has a single person who believes that their work, behind the scenes, is responsible, in one way or another, for all of the shelter’s achievements.  They can make this claim from the comforts of their home computer.  Social media provides this person a stage from which to perform.

The person generally has a pretty large social media following, but tends to do more harm than good.  I have found that if I want to find the source of our local misinformation (fake news), I have to look no further than our very own “Barbara.”  She thinks that reporting false information about an animal or shelter issue, is acceptable if the information brings about an adoption or facilitates a change at the shelter that she supports.

People like this so frequently upset the organizations that they are associated with, they are often cast out of the organization to find another organization to undermine.  Eventually the person has no one left to work with and is left only with social media followers who are filled to the brim with misinformation.  The Barbaras that exist in each organization is evidence that social media follows are unable to think for themselves and blindly follow that one person that claims that they the single mover and shaker in their community. 

Social media has such wonderful potential, it is too bad that destructive people find it an effective wrecking ball.  Social media is an effective tool to get information out immediately.  It frequently is a path of false information; as such, many government and nonprofit organizations find themselves writing policies to deal with social media use.  Abusers of social media claim that their right to broadcast (mis)information is a Constitutional right

No Kill Equation

Those associated with the No Kill Movement have created a number of elements that they have identified as necessary for an animal shelter to become no kill.  They view this as an all or nothing arrangement; you either commit to every element or you will be declared as a lazy uncompassionate shelter director.

The equation is pretty simple: to reduce euthanasia at your shelter, you must reduce animal intakes and provide for more positive outcomes.  But, getting there becomes a little more complicated.

Reduce Animal Intakes

The first order of reducing the pet overpopulation is to reduce the breeding of pets through low-cost sterilization programs.  As the number of unwanted pets in the community are reduced, fewer will find their way into your shelter. 

Pet retention programs provide resources to pet owners to show alternatives to the dumping of their pet on the shelter when they lack financial resources to care for their pet or wisdom to deal with behavioral problems associated with their pet.

A few shelters are so committed to becoming no kill that they have resorted in shutting their doors to the intake of animals.  People finding stray animals are force to keep the stray until such time as it is convenient for the shelter to receive the animal.

Increase Placements

In my experience, I have found that creating rescue partners is the most successful avenue for the placement of pets in the shelters that I have directed; however, it is critical that a watchful eye is on those rescues to prevent them from getting into a hoarding situation.

Mobile adoptions are a project for volunteers.  The idea is to take animals from the shelter and deliver them to a highly visible area of your city to be viewed by the public.  Petsmart is always open to using their stores for adoption events.

Adoption Ambassador programs allow foster parents to screen potential homes for the animals in their care.  The main problem with this program is similar to a foster to adopt program where the animal is in a permanent home, but is on the shelter’s records so the shelter has to flip for the medical expenses on the whim of the person keeping the animal.  Also, people who foster animals tend to have stricter standards for giving up their “babies” to a new owner.  Be prepared for a lot of complaints from potential adopters that want a foster animal.

When all else fails, you can offer free adoptions.  Since people purchase on impulse, you should create strict guidelines for those who adopt a free pet.  It is critical that person has sufficient income to support day to day care for the animal and necessary medical needs of the animal.

“Perception is Reality.”

I’ve heard the phase, “perception is reality” too often at executive meetings, indicating that if someone has a specific perception, it is their reality.  In some way, there was an expectation that we manage people’s perception; even though they created the perception to manipulate reality.  Let me explain:

Only in the realm of politics do we see greater misuse of manipulation to manifest a false reality.  Our generation will be known as the keepers of fake news.  We live in a world in which people create their own reality my falsifying  the events around them to drive their own agenda.

Fake news for animal welfare began with the no kill movement and was fuled by social media.  Social media became the number one place to obtain false information.  People pushed fake news either for attention or to bully.  Unfortunately, the ploy was fairly successful.  Organizations were bullied into making decisions that were not in their own best interest to mollify the social media noise.

Evidence of those bad decisions are documented on PETA’s website:  No Kill Policies.  It saddens me to see what shelter managers are going through as a result of caving to the outrageous demands of a few people.   My mantra was to “do the right thing.”  Today, the “right thing” is different for every person.   I always believed that keeping the community safe was the right thing.  Now there is an expectation that shelters should save every animal.  Saving animals is a good cause, but shelters must not compromise the safety of their community or the care of those animals in that effort.

The officials who oversee the operation of their community animal shelter are frequently more concerned about what people say on social media than they are worried about the safety of their community.  They want to cater to those who make the most noise.  It has never been a more difficult time to manage an animal shelter due to the competing demands and unreasonable expectations.

Where Credit is Due

Every animal shelter has a volunteer who works from the comfort of his/her home computer using social media to move animals.  This person develops a gift of embellishment that portrays the animal in such light that anyone familiar with the animals would not recognize it as the same animal.

Not only do these folks misrepresent the animal, they want credit for all of the animals that have been placed as recognition of their salesmanship.  To them, it doesn’t matter that there is a high return rate, their job is to push animals out of the shelter.  Their placement rate is more important than finding a good permanent home for animals.

It is important for an animal shelter to recognize that having someone like this representing your organization is a detriment and although their enthusiasm is contagious, they place you at risk.  More and more animal shelters are being sued because volunteers or staff have misrepresented an animal to a prospective adopter.

Petition Sites

Two things that petition sites prove is that some people will believe anything and that they will want to sign their names to it.

Although Petition Sites have no requirement for the poster to be factual, erroneous information follows the “postee” throughout their career.   Many jurisdictions will want “clean” applicants for leadership positions and would prefer to have someone without any experience, than to deal with an experienced person who has incurred damaging social media exposure.

Social Media – Aggressive Dogs, A Bad Mix!

I am so grateful that most of my career was prior to social media. Social media has created such a mean spirited group of people online. It is most frequently used to bully others. In the animal welfare arena, social media is used to bully shelter staff into making questionable animals available for adoption. The no-kill movement used this bullying tactic to facilitate high adoption numbers.

In recently years, I discovered that shelter staff was more concerned about having a positive social media presence, than to do their job to protect the community. The constant pressure that is placed on shelter staff is forcing extremely foolish decisions.

Adoption councilors are becoming more and more like used car salesman, asking potential pet owners to purchase an animal without looking under the hood. We are entering an era in which shelters are being sued for misrepresenting the aggressive backgrounds of dogs in their care.