Social Media as a Means to DiversityBy
Different forms of communication have made it easier than ever for people of diverse backgrounds to connect.
Diversity and inclusion initiatives support the realization that everyone is different. Social media reinforces this fact, demonstrating that we’re more connected and have more in common with each other as we communicate using different platforms. It’s an opportunity for individuals to connect with people of all different backgrounds—to find commonalities, to share experiences, and to solve problems in new ways. How can you achieve this? On social media, it’s through sharing one’s experience of an action that’s taking place, an image that evokes different responses, or a hashtag that provokes an array of thoughts.
With the smartphone revolution, we live in a time when most of us walk around with a powerful computer in our pockets. As a Millennial, I’m part of the first generation that grew up constantly connected and is often credited for embracing this technology. Social media has opened us up to outside experiences that couldn’t be accessed in the same way in years past.
Platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, and others have allowed for different forms of communication. Instead of being able to connect with someone only by a phone call, we can use email, text messages, Facebook Messenger, tweets, Instagram tagging, FaceTime, and other platforms to interact with new people.
BRINGING PEOPLE TOGETHER
These days, hashtags allow for people from different backgrounds to find each other and communicate in different ways. The birth of the hashtag in 2007 helped to move conversations forward by allowing groups to focus and filter for a specific topic. As a result, people can search for something that’s of direct interest to them.
Hashtags have evolved to become a link for people to relate to each other, defining a particular action, event, thought, or movement with text, photos, or video. This representation has allowed people to connect at a different level by not only conveying a message but by broadcasting it to an already engaged audience.
For example, using the #accountingstandards and #changes hashtags, accountants from around the world can find each other’s posts. So an accountant in India dealing with changes in government regulation that had a direct impact on his financial reporting can connect with an accountant in the United States addressing changes in U.S. Generally Accepted Accounting Principles (GAAP), and they can both connect with someone in Europe facing changes to International Financial Reporting Standards (IFRS). Those shared experiences allow us to connect with others in different parts of the world with whom we ordinarily would never communicate.
We’re now enabling individuals to openly communicate and answer questions that may not have been thought of before. When we communicate with someone who’s different from us—for example, regionally or generationally—we allow ourselves to appreciate new viewpoints and to benefit from their expertise and experience, especially if we remain open to what the conversation can become. Alternatively, we can offer guidance to someone who’s just now experiencing something we have gone through.
These shared experiences give us a window into what life really is like for people other than ourselves. In our day-to-day lives, we can see life through someone else’s eyes with live feeds of war, protests, government hearings, weddings, graduations, and family gatherings, and we will have developed a different level of empathy, understanding, and communication if we allow ourselves to take a step back to ask questions. The result? We develop a level of inclusion that we didn’t have before by being present even when we physically can’t be there.
The use of hashtags on a post or photo allows for it to be searched, liked, and found by others interested in the same topic. For example, IMA® (Institute of Management Accountants), which has a large global presence outside of the U.S., has made it even easier for U.S. members to find and network with those in other regions when they actively post using IMA hashtags such as #IMALeadership and #IMAEurope, or handles such as @IMAglobal on Instagram.
Recently, I connected with a student from India who saw a post of mine while searching for IMA-related content on Instagram. Because he thought I might be from the same region of India, he reached out to me. The conversation started with what IMA is about, what the CMA® (Certified Management Accountant) exam entails, and how I got involved with IMA. It then evolved into helping each other prepare for the CMA exam, such as sending the occasional possible test questions for practice.
Another way for people to connect is through Facebook groups, which are communities of Facebook members focused on a shared interest or topic. You can join or like a group and communicate with others in it. Groups are often moderated by administrators to ensure that discussion is done in a positive and healthy manner. Much like the chat rooms of the 1990s, these groups have become a popular way for people to communicate with others on specific topics in a forum.
Social media platforms have allowed people of different backgrounds to reach out and share what they know, giving us a glimpse of the lives of people all around the world. By doing this, diversity and inclusion are promoted and celebrated.
Social media has given us various platforms that enable us to be more vocal on important topics. When used wisely, this can lead to healthy discussions and positive solutions. Having diversity of thought allows for more inclusion when differences are seen and appreciated.
VISIT THE IMA D&I PAGE
IMA recently launched a Diversity and Inclusion page on its website thanks to a collaboration between volunteers on the Diversity and Inclusion Committee and IMA staff. The page features IMA’s position and commitment to D&I, IMA’s D&I origin story and global reach, current D&I trends, and resources for IMA members, professionals, students, faculty members, volunteers, and partners. The page is accessible in the “About IMA” section at www.imanet.org/about-ima/diversity-and-inclusion.