Some Thoughts on ‘Public Professionals’ on Social Media.

You can see the thoughts of other attendees to #WGT16 at the Live Blog.

I attended the fabulously well-organised #WGT16 (We Get Together 2016) event developed by the We Communities social media group. I’m not sure if ‘group’ is the right word – ‘network’ maybe? Anyway there was an Open Technologies discussion section towards the end where we were asked to think about “How Can We Improve the Lives and Services for Our Patients Through Social Media?”. This question prompted a range of strong reactions in me on the day, and still does. I blogged about it over at the We Communities site, and I’ve reproduced it here with some additional formatting.

Some thoughts from #WGT16. It was so nice to see lots of ‘tweeting’ nurses together in one place and spot people I knew in the community. I even got the chance to talk to some of them IRL and meet some new folk along the way. So the social aspect was good. Our table had an interesting discussion when it came to looking at how social media might be used to improve the lives of people we work with. I have some reservations about this and we acknowledged these within our group.

We discussed how we ‘curate’ our follows – that is our use of twitter depends on to a substantial degree (but not totally), on whom we choose to follow. So with my @mhnurselecturer account I naturally tend to follow a lot of folks who tweet about mental health and related issues. Therefore I think we are sometimes at risk of creating ‘networks of the likeminded’ to some degree and perhaps we need to think strategically about how we diversify our twitter network. Much was made of in the day about how diversity in our networks can be fruitful. We therefore thought that we don’t want to replace one sort of silo with another and that reaching out and following people in other walks of life, professions, with other interests and passions could be a helpful way of improving the diversity of what we experience through social media.

I work with people and work to improve the services that deliver care to people who are marginalised in many ways, stigmatised and also structurally disadvantaged in our society. They are also subject to damaging terrible experiences of abuse, coercion and control – socially and organisationally. They may well not wish to interact with me as I may well represent to them exactly the kind of thing they want to stay away from. So I find myself thinking that we must be attentive to the needs of people who for many good reasons may not wish to interact with professionals on social media. They could do without another form of imposition on top of what they have already experienced or are experiencing. Just as we would in other avenues of communication we must be attentive to the space and territory that we occupy in these virtual spaces. Not all will welcome the idea of professionals seeking to ‘improve their lives’ through social media, and may find this threatening and invasive.