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!