How would our profession be different if we could create a culture of civility in our dialogue with one another? Thanks to social media, the culture of contempt that has long been apparent to those within the profession is now getting massive public air time. What harm is that doing to us, even as chiropractic is on the cusp of so many advancements in research, acceptance and utilization?

In a recent episode of 33 Minutes, Drs. Gerry Clum and Jason Deitch discussed the social media landscape in chiropractic. Please watch the video, or read the transcript below, to learn more about their insights on this seemingly intractable issue that threatens our ability to progress.


Deitch: Hi, and welcome to another episode of Today’s Chiropractic Leadership. I’m Dr Jason Deitch and I’m here with Dr. Gerry Clum. Dr. Clum, good afternoon.

Clum: Good afternoon to you, my friend.
Deitch: Thank you. We’ve been having quite a few conversations about this thing called social media and there’s been a lot of controversy, not limited to our profession one bit. There is a lot of use and I’ll dare say, misuse and perhaps even abuse of what this tool is, how it’s intended to worked, how it’s intended to be used, and how people are using it. We were having some conversations, watching and observing in fact, how chiropractors are using social media and we thought it would be a valuable conversation to have with all of you to help bring out some of the etiquette, some of the do’s and don’ts, some of the potential pitfalls that it appears some, if not many in our profession, are not really paying attention to. Dr. Clum, I just wanted to sort of bring up the conversation so that we can really provide a leadership perspective on both the potential this tool has to do good and the potential it has to, in some cases, be damaging, hurtful, or even dangerous in some cases. Let me bring it back to you and just sort of have you give us an overview. What’s your state and perception of how our profession is using social media these days? Good, bad, and ugly.

Clum: Well, you know, it’s interesting, the last couple of weeks, not with anything directly related to chiropractic, but with the shooting in Gilroy, the shooting in Dayton, the shootings in El Paso, and then moving on to the Epstein’ stuff and all of that business, and everything that’s going on around us in society, frankly I have been kind of shocked at the language, at the vitriol, at the absolute, “I’ve got the facts” perspective, that many of our colleagues are putting forth. And, then I got to thinking about the recent troubles of the governor of Puerto Rico. He’s out of office because of a social media gaffe. And then I got to thinking about the border patrol agents, the customs and border patrol people who had a closed Facebook page and, whether it was gallows humor or whatever it might be, I don’t know. I wasn’t in their shoes and so on, but when somebody else looks at it, it was awful. And we’ve seen the same thing on the part of police, and virtually anybody in authority. And so, you know, I kind of liken it and imagine that we’re at a spot with social media like we were when automobiles first came on the scene,

Deitch: Okay.

Clum: We had horses, we had bicycles, we had wagons, and we had these things called cars or whatever we referred to them, automobiles, or whatever we called them in that day. But no rules, no traffic signs, we had no etiquette about how to use them, and I’m sure there was a lot of carnage, and I mean literal carnage, in those early days, if there isn’t enough now. But until we figured out that we needed to add some parameters and we needed to have some conventions to use, to make this tool work, being the automobile. I think we need the same things relative to this environment. And you know, the one thing I hear people say, “Well, you know, it’s my right to say what I want to say.” Absolutely it is. Absolutely it is. But it’s also your liability in terms of what is heaped upon you and the point where it becomes concerning, I think, for you and I, is what gets heaped upon us, as a profession, as a result of some of the behaviors.

Clum: …I think about social media and I’m not a heavy user, but I think of it from the standpoint of, is there something on there, that if it was in the front page of the New York Times, I’d say, “Oh, crap!” Or if there was something that made it to the PTA newsletter from my kid’s school, I’d say, “Oh God, I wish I hadn’t said that,” or whatever the case might be, And try and reflect through a different lens than, “I’ve got the right to say it,” and maybe take it from the standpoint, “I admit you’ve got the right, but because you can, should you? And then, “Because you can, how should you?,” becomes another element of that. So, I think as a discipline, we could be very embarrassed, very embarrassed, by some of the carrying on that we see on Facebook, should somebody decide to look into that and dig deeper. And if they could crack open a closed Facebook page of the border patrol people, they could do the same for the chiropractors. And, it could be a very long, bad day if that were to happen.

Deitch: Yeah, I think, referencing your automobile metaphor, I believe this is literally where they came up with the idea of curbs. Probably where it started. And in today’s day and age, it might be known as a filter, to really use some judgment about the consequences. I think this is a part of, somewhere in, The definition of maturity. There is a transition from just expressing your feelings in the moment to appreciating the consequences of doing so. I just recently released a book called Unmarketing Your Practice that is very much based on this idea and really the major premise of the book is, if social media can make all these bad things happen, it is just as powerful and has just as much potential to equally make good things happen. It’s not up to social media. It’s actually up to us.

You know, social media collectively is nothing more than a bunch of pipes representing messaging of our collective voice, our collective consciousness. We’re the ones contributing to the conversation, and I think that’s what I’m picking up and hearing you say is…you have the right to say just about anything outside of hatred and porn, but there’s a lot of damage that can be done within those realms. In fact, you mentioned a few outside of our profession. It’s also been done inside our profession in Canada. There were several prominent chiropractors who had made what they thought were private references to their feelings about drugs and so on, vaccines specifically. And those perspectives were then picked up by the public media. So in fact, it was on the front page of newspapers, or more literally in newspapers. I’m not sure it was the front page. But, it is something that is a really smart thing for us to start having a conversation around, which is, “What are the potential consequences as well as what are the potential benefits?” Most of our profession have thought of it just simply as an advertising tool to get more new patients, and the bar [or] the local saloon where you can hang out and shoot the breeze and it’s all going to be amongst like minds.

Clum: You know, that’s a very important point and one that I’d like to…put an exclamation point on. You know, the language of Facebook, for example, where we’re talking about our friends. You know, to me, this is the equivalent of going into a casino and getting chips instead of cash… It doesn’t spend the same way. Well, friends that you’d sit down and have a personal conversation with over a glass of beer, and friends on Facebook ain’t the same. And the presumption that they’re equivalent… You may blow off some steam with a friend and you may cuss and you may rant and you may rave, and so on, and that’s it.

But in this environment, that’s forever and you have no idea where that “friend” is going to go, allow, or take you with those comments. And so…the first thing we need to understand, is that don’t be misled by the language that’s applied. You brought up several points that have come up. There has been all sorts of stuff going back over a decade that came out of the UK with websites, and Australia’s gone through it, Canada’s gone through it. We have to a degree here in the United States, where people just post stuff that’s inappropriate, wrong, unsubstantiated, whatever the case might be, and they wind up paying the price for if.

Deitch: Okay.

Clum: I think part of our discussion here is, discretion’s the better part of valor, and I’m not suggesting that anybody back up on their beliefs in any shape, form or fashion. I am suggesting that we all be very cautious about how we language those, and how we put those into the marketplace as statements of fact, as evidence, whatever the case might be. I’ve always taken the approach that it’s better to ask a good question than it is to assert your knowledge of the answer and a definitive answer.

Deitch: And that’s not limited to social media…

Clum: No, no, no, no,,,.

Deitch: It’s exactly brilliant. You know?

Clum: So, the whole strategy of how we engage this, I don’t care if you wish everybody and their brother a happy birthday, and happy anniversary, and I love your office, and congratulations on your new car, and your dinner looks wonderful. I get that’s not what any of us are talking about. We’re talking about the things that can come back to haunt you as a practitioner, haunt us as a discipline, that we just simply don’t need,

Deitch: Let’s get specific if we can here and I don’t mean articulated specifically, but just so we can get concrete. I know that part of what we’re speaking about is, I’ll call it extreme vulgarity. I’m just using really unprofessional language.

Clum: Yeah.

Deitch: That would be one of them. And you know, listen, we can all swear like sailors like the rest of them, but there are consequences and you just have to be willing to know that this could and might show up in a public forum at some point, some day. So, let’s not regret those things. What are some of the others in addition to [what] I’d like to think is obvious, clearly not. What are some other, I guess, real concerns, you know, making…You shouldn’t be diagnosing over the Internet on social media, if any are sort of…playing doctor, so to speak, diagnosing not a good idea. I’m talking about actual, you know, real names and case studies, real patient experiences and so on. Not a good idea. Um, what are some others that come to mind for you that [illustrate] clearly…do not do this?

Clum: I think that if we keep it to the broadest possible neck, the language issues that you’ve already spoken about, the discrimination issues that people get into, whether that be sexually oriented, whether that be ethnically oriented, whether that be gender oriented, whatever it might be. And then the proselytizing, if you will, if you’re a Christian, or you’re a Buddhist, or you’re a Jew, I’m happy for you.
Speaker 1: But the reality is, that if this is some place where you want to profess your beliefs, I’m fine with that, but do it in a quasi-respectful fashion. And, appreciate the fact that, there’s a lot of varied opinions around the world and, find a way to say it that gets your point across and allows you to be listened to next time.

I think that if we could just get some cooperation, not just in chiropractic, but across the society with a little bit of civility in this discussion, and a little bit of thoughtfulness about how these comments are received, really is an absolute basic civility, humanity, compassionate kind of approach. I’m not shooting for the moon here. I’m just asking, let’s just think about what our stuff sounds like to somebody that doesn’t know anything about us or. worse yet, to somebody that doesn’t like us, and then modify our or our approaches accordingly, you know?

Deitch: Yeah. You referenced the thing to use as a filter is, anything you say can and will be used against you at some point. If it can be, there’s probably somebody that would like to use it against you at some point

Clum: In the worst possible way, at the worst possible time.

Deitch: I want to go back to something you said earlier, that I briefly highlighted, but I think really may be sort of the call to action here, because none of us are going get it all right all the time. We’re all doing our best in communicating and so on. But specifically as it references the debates, the “I have a belief that’s different than your belief” type of conflict and controversy. You’re talking about it , and I’d like to just take it a step deeper. The common thought is, I have to make my point. And we will, in many cases, unsubstantiated, without having the resources to support, we will say things that to others sound crazy. Not much different than when other people say things to us, it sounds insane to us. So what you said, though, is that instead of continuing that, “I’m right. No, I’m right. No, I’m right. No, I’m right. You’re wrong. No, you’re wrong,” that type of back and forth, you said it very subtly.

I want make sure everybody hears it. The most effective thing you can do in fact is ask questions. What is your basis for your belief? Where does that come from? What is the source that you are citing to substantiate what it is that you’re saying? And I have found in that approach, the overwhelming majority of time, they don’t have a really solid source. It is a belief as opposed to a fact. So instead of into the battle, which I know feels good to a lot of people and it lets us be very righteous and hormonally, is very releasing.

The truth is there’s a difference between being right and being effective. And, if you want to be right and be aggressive, maybe that’s something you leave to the physical world and not the digital world. You can have those in controlled environments and let it fly. But in a digital, permanent world that we’re living in right now, it is far more effective to simply ask people how they can support their claims. And if you are, I mean this in a positive way, lawyer-like. in that you’re strategic in your questioning and in your follow-through, in many cases you can make your points more effectively by leading them down the pathway that they can no longer defend what it is they’re saying., in fact, we were having this conversation yesterday along the lines of those who are so certain and sure of their beliefs, based on the media. But the media can’t always be trusted because…in between all of the news reports are pharmaceutical advertisements. It becomes very obvious that source is a tainted source of information if you want to be strategic and effective. If you’re just want to be right and blow off some steam, that is another approach. And I think what we’re saying here, and really suggesting strongly recommending is to… Listen, chiropractors, we are a minority group of sorts. And unfortunately, it feels as if we have to take an even higher road than the majority. [That’s] just sort of the fact of where we are. Do you agree with that?

Clum: Yes, I do. And, there’s a couple different situations there, relative to that point you were making about our status as having a minority view in healthcare or whatever subject we might be talking about, we do have that minority view, like it or not. The way of the world is that when you are the majority, you speak for yourself. When you’re the minority, you speak for the minority. And I’m not telling you how Gerry Clum wants it. I’m not telling you that’s the way it ought to be. I’m telling you that’s the way it is. And all over the world, regardless of the subject, politics, religion, you name it, guns, abortion, whatever. The situation is that the individual in the minority position speaks for the whole. That’s one problem. Another problem is that we have this tendency to anthropomorphize our discussions.

I remember something that Sid taught us, you and I both, decades ago. He would say that there’s more in the man, excuse the sexist consideration. there’s more in the man than there is in the stand. And what the current environment is doing, is that people are dismissed based on their stand. Your view on vaccines, your view on abortion, your view on guns, your view on Trump, your view on Biden, whatever the case might be. That one thing alone dismisses everything about that individual. And what a terrible disservice. What a terrible disservice. I don’t ever want to be defined by any one moment in time or one comment that I’ve made over time in my lifetime.

I have offended lots of people. I guarantee I am not some paragon of virtue that has figured all this stuff out. I can see a problem when it’s ahead of me, and that’s what we’re talking about. But how we approach it, that minority consideration is one. The other consideration is that the person becomes a surrogate for the issue. And when the person becomes the surrogate for the issue, we dehumanize the individual and then we can say or do anything with impunity because they’re no longer human and we just gotta stop.

Deitch: You know, it reminds me, Dr. Rob Scott, president of Life University, earlier this year gave a presentation from stage, that he referenced this idea called the culture of contempt. And it’s what you’re describing extremely well and I think it’s worth shining the light on the culture both within, intra-professionally amongst our peers, let alone our minority perspective amongst the rest of the world that just doesn’t see it the way we do…yet. Do you want to speak to both internally and externally, what should it look like? We do have disagreements. We do have controversies. What do you see? Help us see what the right approach might be, or a better approach, if right’s not the word.

Clum: I remember the first accreditation visit we ever had at Life West decades ago, almost 40 years ago now. The examiner found something that I didn’t agree with at all…not unusual in an accreditation process. It’s a confrontational event. I was young and cocky and I put my thoughts on the table as if that should end the discussion. And he looked over the top of his glasses and he said, “Honorable people can have honorable disagreements.” And if we just did that one thing, that we assume the honorable nature of the individual we’re dealing with rather than we assume the nefarious nature of the person, that would help mitigate so much of that contempt[uous] and, and confrontational perspective that President Scott was speaking about. I think just that one thing alone, just start thinking in those terms, we can change the rhetoric by changing our heart.

Deitch: I find, ironically, concluding the idea, that we tend to be able to get to that place you’re speaking of in times of crisis and trauma. And it’s interesting, when a crisis happens all of a sudden, diversity becomes not an issue. We’re all humans. When blood spills, it’s all red. When the entire chiropractic profession for some reason is being attacked somehow, under those circumstances we find commonality. And I guess that’s the question. Why does it always have to happen at the extreme need for defense? Is there a way to create a culture of positive offense, agreeing on the things we agree on, as you say, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are well thought, perhaps well researched. People have opinions based on their experience, just like we have…opinions based on our experience, that perhaps just, I dare call it, as you say, decency and respect, in spite of the fact that our conclusions may be different. T

he premise in many cases is the same. We’re trying to help people. We’re trying to do our best each and every day to make a positive difference in the world. The methodology may be slightly different and that’s perfectly open to debate, but why can’t we, even amongst our medical brothers and sisters, find a commonality? You know, Dr Riekeman talks much about and quotes the Dalai Lama and the ability to be able to, in fact, go to the worst of conflict and bring people together to have a sense of compassion and understanding for each other. I know your work at the Octagon has a lot to do with that. Maybe you want to sort of close with some inspirational comments about what do you wish…what could we be?

Clum: Well, you know, if I had an answer to that question, I’d be making my reservations to Oslo to pick up a Nobel prize this year. Ain’t gonna happen. The reality is that we’re all afraid of losing something and whether it’s afraid of losing something tangible, whether it’s afraid of losing something intangible, all of that fear comes from a position of loss. Now what to do about that? How to change that? I don’t know that. I don’t have a formula for it and I’m not going to be so presumptuous or naive to think that I could put one forward. But again, we can see problems. When you talked about why does it take a colossal event for us to come together, let’s think of how the world responds when there’s a disaster.

Whether we’re talking about a tsunami in the South Pacific, or whether we’re talking about an earthquake in California, or we’re talking about floods in China this week, the world steps up and does what it needs to do regardless of where your politics are and who your enemy is. If we just thought a little bit more about that and what allows us to do that, when we reduce it all down, …what we see is the common suffering that there, but for the grace of God go you and I, and it changes everything if we do that. So, no great,wise, profound answer for you, simply for the recognition of the problem. I appreciate you taking me up on my advice to ask better questions, but I’ve got to keep working until I can get you a better answer.

Deitch: Right on. Listen, we want to thank you for watching and be hopefully being a part of this conversation. I hope we hope it’s made at least an ounce of opportunity to consider next time, and we’re all applying this ourselves. We have plenty of opinions ourselves. So, we’re also aware that it’s a matter of practicing what we preach, but hopefully we can bring this culture, not of contempt, but of compassion, to at least our profession as a starting point. We deserve it. It’s enough already. And so today, we are not at our strongest. We are not at our most powerful. We are not living our potential as a collective profession when we do what we’re doing.

So, we invite you to explore the conversation, bring it to colleagues, friends, at the very least do your best to stay out of trouble. At the very best, maybe think about how we can be using this tool to, in fact, make a positive difference that I dare say should be completely obvious the world desperately needs. On behalf of Dr Gerry Clum, I’m Dr Jason Deitch. Thank you for joining us here on Today’s Chiropractic Leadership.