Facebook, getting professionals in trouble since 2004.
The birth of the new social network Google Plus has allowed for even greater sharing control with their ‘Circle’ concept.
Despite starting out with an invite only system, Google Plus now has an impressive 10 million + member count and there is no doubt that this will continue to keep growing as membership is opened to everyone. Perhaps the site’s popularity could be attributable to the fact that it allows you the function to segregate the information your friends, family and business receive which consequently permits you to maintain, and I hope I can say this without sounding schizophrenic, your multiple personalities with each of your circles. Their message that Google Plus is ‘the easiest way to share some things with college buddies, others with your parents and almost nothing with your boss’ no doubt alludes to the weakness of other social networks where a vast amount of professionals have gotten into hot water over improper privacy safeguarding on their behalf.
With the shocking news in recent studies that over half of employers check job candidates’ social media profiles and their activities before making a decision as to whether or not to employ them, it’s more important than ever that our online personas on social media platforms are kept clean and professional.
This, of course, is no easy feat. For the social among you, the continual regulating of a profile that is inundated with photos from Gordon’s 30th birthday or comments from friends who can become a bit profanity-happy can become tiresome. However the constant stream of articles that call out public figures for unprofessionalism online should be a warning for the rest of us.
Something that has been considered taboo but which in fact has little or limited, unclear guidelines surrounding it is the adding or accepting of clients, patients, students etc into our online activities. As the boundaries between private and public life become increasingly blurred, so too does the customer’s perception of your work role and social role which could result in a loss of respect and authority.
In order to combat the confusion in the medical field surrounding social networking and the regulating of online profiles, the British Medical Association have given guidelines to doctors, nurses and medical students telling them to avoid posting comments about patients or colleagues on public forums even if it is part of a private conversation. The Nursing Midwifery Council have also promised a strong stance on online misconduct. There are a plethora of stories easily accessible online regarding nurses posting pictures of themselves on Facebook with a human placenta or swapping confidential horror stories on each other’s Facebook walls. It is clear that the distinction between personal and professional lives need to be made otherwise patient confidentiality could be betrayed and career prospects damaged.
And it’s not just limited to those in healthcare. The internet is crowded with reports of teachers making insensitive remarks concerning students on Facebook or like the six teachers of Langland Community School in Milton Keynes, being tagged in inappropriate hen-do photographs which student parents got hold of and posted through the doors of fellow parents. When someone is respected as a role model and public figure, it is their duty to realise that their extra curricular life will have professional consequences if it is strewn over a social media site.
However, before you all rush and delete any evidence you ever had an online account, it’s not all bad. Dr Tony Calland, the Chairman of BMA ethics committee said that social media could provide opportunities as well as challenges. It has been reported before that having a student as a ‘friend’ online could aid them in making their own decisions on the balancing of social and work life. A professional connection could be made which in turn could create trust enabling students to internalize any educational goals that the teacher has.
The answer would be to do as the BMA have done in forming clear and concise guidelines for all to follow. In the meantime, head on over to your privacy settings and put your Facebook on lockdown.