Monday, April 5, 2010

Midwives and Facebook

I have spent a lot of time over the years moaning about how midwives do not engage with online communication, learning or collaboration. And as those of you who follow this blog know, it is my not-so-hidden agenda to introduce midwives to social media and social networking through events such as the Virtual International Day of the Midwife. What I have come to realise over the last few weeks is that midwives are using the one social networking tool that I have a love-hate relationship with.............Facebook.

How midwives use Facebook
When you look around Facebook you realise midwives are all over the place. 'Midwifery Today' has over 10,000 fans, The American College of Nurse-Midwives has 2,000 fans and the Australian College of Midwives has 400 group members. Even the Virtual International Day of the Midwife has 870 fans. And don't forget the special interest groups that have midwifery association such as I Support Every Australian Womans Right To Choose Where She Gives Birth group which has nearly 5,000 members and ICAN with 1,300 fans.

Using Facebook for good...
Clearly there is huge potential to use Facebook to disseminate information, network and organize campaigns. If Facebook is the one social media tool that midwives engage with on a regular basis, professional organizations such as the New Zealand College of Midwives and the International Confederation of Midwives cannot afford to ignore it.

...and evil

At the same time, there is an unfortunate propensity for people to forget themselves on Facebook. We've all heard the stories about people being sacked because of what they have said on Facebook, and I for one are always reminding my children that future employers may check their Facebook profiles before they employ them.

Unprofessional behavior
According to the New Zealand College of Midwives (NZCOM), there is a 'mushrooming' of incidents where midwives have been talking inappropriately about women and colleagues on Facebook and similar forums. This has the unfortunate effect of negating the good work that is done on Facebook and giving it a bad name to midwives' professional bodies such as NZCOM.

Ultimately, Facebook is a communication tool just like any other online communication tool...and is only as good as the people who use it.

Tips for using Facebook
In my next post I'll pass on some tips about how to enjoy Facebook but keep out of trouble on a professional level.

What tips for using Facebook would you like to suggest?


Cristina Costa said...

I have recently written 3 posts where I briefly explore the issues of Digital Identity and professional networking. It might be useful...?!

You are online even if you think you are not…

Personal accounts: what the web has done for me…..

Is the web GOOD or BAD for you…?

For me, 'being' online should not be so different from 'being' f2f

We can argue that online it is easier for people to open up, be it for the communication channel (the screen can work as a shield), or the communication means (the written word is more reflective and thus lends it self to the creation of more detailed narratives, etc). This is all good, but it can also be evil as you mentioned.
For me, the exercise people have to do is to be as good online as f2f... also aware that online our speech and opinion are amplified to a much wider audience; easily disseminated wide and far across time and space. That can work both to our (professional and social) advantage or disadvantage. It all depends on what we upload and say in those environments.

This takes me to a quote/thought by MLK. He said that he longed for the day when people would be judged by the contents of their character ... well online that, somehow, can work. You will indeed be judged by the content you put up in cyberspace, which consequently will reflect your character and contribute to image others will have of you.

In a simple way, I'd say that the best way to go about it is to create and maintain a profile that matches your f2f one. Don't share anything you are not proud of (because sooner or later it will show) and choose also your online friends well, because they too help others form their judgment about you(r character).

For me personally, I can be more expressive online, probably even more reflective and considerate in my responses to others... because (most times) I take the time to think my answers through.
Yet, I do not intend to give a different image of me. I want people to access me online or face to face and see the same person. I want the two spheres of my identity (f2f and online) two collide in a single person: me.
Sometimes online it becomes easier to share our thoughts (maybe it's the written word, the lack of body language and eye contact... I don't know...
Be that as it may we always need to be aware others are watching us and we have an image to preserve.
And that is not necessarily a bad exercise. It can help us focus on what brought us to that space in the first place and get away from such 'levities' ...

Just my 2 cents of course!

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi Christina

Thank you so much for your reply which has some fabulous information for midwives who want to understand more fully what digital identity is.

I think the message for professional bodies is the one "You are online even if you think you are not…"
Therefore, we (and professional bodies) must model good practice rather than say "Facebook is bad...therefore we'll ignore it".

Merrolee said...

Like your new blog layout/format! very nice!

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks so much, Merrolee. I am very pleased with it but was a tad worried that it was too plain. I'm loving the much easier than what I had before, which was a very complicated html arrangement. Draft Blogger is responsible for this look - so much flexibility available.