To Blog, or Not To Blog?

I have been studying the up-and-coming issue of therapeutic professionals being on social networking sites, such a facebook and blogs.

There are two issues at the forefront:

1.)  How the professional is using social networking in relation to patients, and

2.)  How the professional is using social networking in relation to themselves, but by doing so giving patients access to what they normally would not.

It’s a fascinating debate, on all sides.

There is a clear difference between the perspective of the young professionals, who grew up with the internet, and the older professionals who had the internet introduced into their career.

There is also a clear difference between the two arguments.

For example, the first has the continuum from professionals who refuse to participate in their patients’ online endeavors to those professionals who creep on their patients to check up on them.  I fall in the middle, in most cases, in that I do not mind patients sharing their personal sites if it is useful during a therapy session, but I do not have time to chase down patients after hours and do not think that is helpful.

The second argument has to do with how professionals use social networking sites themselves.  The continuum is, of course, from those who do not use them at all to those who put everything out there.  The middle of the continuum includes three groups: one group that utilizes social networking for professional networking only (to meet other professionals), one group that utilizes social networking only to promote their practice or business or field related topics, and one group that utilizes social networking for personal expression but limits access to their sites.

It’s good and important to consider these issues, as any of them could affect the precious relationship between therapist and client.

I feel that I have come a long way in learning about disclosure, developing specific boundaries, and improving my life skills in general.  This has been very public, as I blogged the whole journey.  That was important to me at the time, and I think it was important to those who learned with me along the way.  A big part of the population I was writing to needed that journey, and needed the experience of also learning along the way.

That’s one thing I liked about it, and one reason I was so open about some things.  I felt it was a way to share, a way to be an example – not just of the good things in life, but also how to deal with hard days, recover from losses, how to keep moving forward.  Not that I know so much, but people learned as I learned, even in their own lives.  In turn, they taught me.  In that way, it was helpful and productive for us all.

But also, the more I learned the less I needed to write.  I will always need to write, for writing is a part of me.  But my writing found other venues in speeches, presentations, books, talks, and journals.  Blogging was no longer the only source for me to express my writing.  This opening up of the writing-ness was good for the development of writing, and combined with a healthier Emily made blogging less of a necessity.  A hobby, which is fine, and an easy way to share with many, which is a fine thing.  So it is not that blogging was bad, or that I no longer enjoyed it, but it did take a significant shift.

But I also feel a responsibility to write, in some way.  It is a way to reach people, a way to share, a way to reflect and ponder and think and consider.  It develops tolerance and educates and celebrates.  But as this research points out, those good things are still positive influences that were not available before.

And of course, when boundaries are crossed or if terrible things were written, it would no longer be a positive influence.

And always, the first rule of therapeutic professionals in any field is “first cause no harm”.

So it really gives me a lot to think about, in this shifting world, as technology unfolds and is no longer exclusive.  A lot depends on the population with whom you work, and my “population” is very specific – two minority communities – which means they already have way more contact with me “in real life” and through related connections than what I would normally have with other patients.  So is utilizing social networking sites just a difference between “then and now”, or is it really a trend that needs taming?

I can write in other ways.

My few friends that do read the blog could still text me or email me, or we could go the old fashioned way and write letters.

And, with the busy days I am having, I would rather spend the real-life time with my friends themselves rather than blogging at them.

So is blogging and other social networking a way to connect with others in a busy world?

Or something that protects and pads that space between us?

I already gave up tweeting and those sites; I could tell early on that was a disaster waiting to happen.  It did make me sad because it was just such FUN.  But such instant access with little impulse control and no filter could easily make a mess of things.  I perhaps would be more “ready” for it now, but I don’t want to go there.

Facebook is the only social networking site I use, and right now I am required to keep it for my mission because I am one of the moderators for some of the church pages on Facebook.  I mostly just do status updates that are either silly, class Emily World, or blog updates that are public things anyway.  So for now, that is resolved, as it is, though people have to work really hard to go find the page and “like” it in order to get my updates.  I have found that few people work that hard on facebook, so it actually weeded out a lot of people by default.  So I feel like the Facebook issue is settled, for now.

But the blogging question remains, especially as my life becomes less and less blog-able.  I know that I will always want to write.  But these are interesting arguments to consider, both for and against blogging in a public setting.  There are still privacy options, like adding a security passcode to the page or requiring sign-ins or complicated things like that.  But there is also the option of just letting it go, which I think I never before could have considered – but now can, I think, for the first time.

It is not a question as a plea for “votes” to keep blogging, no do I mean to isolate my audience by bringing this issue up.  But it is a valid and important clinical question that is coming up, that some organizations may even pass regulations about that answer the question for me.  And always, the doing-no-harm is most, most, most important.   So.

To blog, or not to blog?  That is the question!

Posted in ** Writing permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.


To Blog, or Not To Blog? — 6 Comments

  1. Emily:
    I have the same questions, only I am not a “professional.” I am a Mom who finds writing a way to express and share. Some days I wonder why I do it. Other days, when someone leaves me a comment that they were able to use or apply something I posted, I think that perhaps there is a reason God gave me a desire to express my thoughts through words. (I know I have learned A LOT reading your blog).

    However (just as you stated), while my life is not necesary blog-able, I will always want to write and every time I think about sitting down to blog about something it becomes a question that I ask myself!

  2. Well, you know I have always enjoyed your blog. I haven’t been able to keep up with it as much as I would like to, but the posts I do read are always very insightful and I definitely learn a lot from them. I cried when you deleted your last blog. I was devastated because I had always planned to go backwards and read more. But that was my issue to deal with, not yours. And I totally understand the “to blog, or not to blog” thing. I started blogging in Feb 2007 and I have to take breaks from it every so often because I feel like I’m sharing too much of myself. Right now, I am in learning mode. I want to learn from others more than I have to share. Does that make sense? I’ve been posting photos of the kids for the grandparents to enjoy, but not writing much about myself. But I know it won’t be long before I’m ready to pour out my heart again. Writing is very therapeutic for me. I’m sure you know a little bit about that!

  3. Writing is what you do. It is how you cope and process everything in your life. I think that if you stopped writing, you just might implode! I understand if you get to the point that you want to only write privately (for yourself) but stopping….no way. Also, you inspire others around you.

    • I always write on my own, whether I blog or not. Definitely. I can’t imagine a day without writing!

  4. Emily you know that our friendship would not exist without blogging! So for me the answer is obvious even though I don’t read your blog every day. (I don’t read my own everyday either!)

    One of the problems with answering this question is that you have incomplete information. You don’t know how many people you have influenced or how much. It’s kind of like bearing your testimony on Fast Sunday. Sure there are a few people that say “thanks” in the hall, but I believe that those who it means most to are the ones who never say a thing. Even me, who tells you all the time how much you mean to me, can’t say what my life would be like without your example. You have shown me that a higher spiritual plane is possible for an average girl like you and I.