Sunday, March 11, 2012

Facebook and critical thinking

I am always sharing images and resources on Facebook, some funny and irrelevant and others are "professional" that I think people might find useful for work and learning. I'll be honest...I often share things that I don't put a lot of thought into because Facebook makes it so easy to just click a button. But this week I shared a couple of resources, and people's responses to them got me thinking about the downside of doing this...and got me reflecting about how careful you need to be before sharing random links to others.

Breastfeeding in intensive care
The first resource was an image of Serena Tremblay breastfeeding her baby whilst being intubated in intensive care. She had shared this photo on a Facebook page about breastfeeding, The Leaky Boob, and it went viral with 4,440 likes and 1,191 shares.

I shared the image because was a wonderful example of how breastfeeding can be successful in the most extreme circumstances with commitment from health professionals as well as mum. I didn't think anything of it. I got the photo from a person I respect and trust; it had been posted by Serena herself, and in it she said she was still feeding 15 months later.

I got a lot of questions and comments about Serena's health and concerns about her condition, and I felt terribly guilty because I hadn't even thought about those issues. I messaged Serena to ask how she was, and never got a reply which made me even more concerned about my thoughtlessness.

The Kony campaign
The second incident was the sharing of a video about the atrocities perpetrated by Joseph Kony in Uganda, and his use of child soldiers. This documentary, Kony 2012, has gone viral after being posted on YouTube. I shared it on my page because it looked as if this was an issue that warranted exposure.

But the reality is I know nothing about this issue and certainly used no critical thinking about the appropriateness of sharing this video. And since I have done so, I have come across a number of critiques of the video, the movement behind the video, and the current situation with Joseph Kony. Indeed, Ruth DeSouza left a link on my Facebook page to a very detailed essay she has written about this issue which highlights the dangers of using social media without accompanying critical thinking: When helping does not help: Invisible children and colonialism.

Facebook - does it do more harm than good?
The beauty of Facebook and social media in general is that you can highlight issues very easily and quickly inform people about your campaign. But it can also allow us to perpetrate misinformation.

Does Facebook do more harm than good? I cannot answer that question. I do know that I have learned things this week. I have learned about the Lord's Resistance Army in Uganda and started thinking about the issue of child soldiers. I have learned to be a little more critical about the information I share via social media, and think more carefully about the human aspect behind photos and resources that I see on the internet. That has got to be good...hasn't it?

Have you shared anything on Facebook that you have lived to regret? How do you decide whether an item is suitable to share?


Anonymous said...

Sarah, I too shared the breastfeeding image on the spur of the moment, I was amazed and inspired. Your reflection has made me stop and think a little deeper before pressing that 'share' button which is always within easy reach. Thanks. Clare. 2nd yr Student Midwife.

Sarah Stewart said...

Thank you, Clare. It's never a bad thing to stop and consider what we're doing...that's what being a reflective practitioner is all about, and a mighty fine skill to have as a midwife. All the best, Sarah

Jo said...

Hi Sarah

I am super-cautious about sharing and almost never share other's posts from Fb or G+ and don't often even RT links on Twitter. I think that to some extent this is my own fear of looking silly or embarrassing myself or the original poster.

However my main reasoning is that with links I won't share unless I have accessed the link, know at least a little about the subject and feel that it has something useful to say. This is because early in my "Twitter life" I accessed links RT'd by a couple of highly respected educators only to find that they either didn't work or they were to somthing inappropriate. This made me very aware of some of the pitfalls.

I was very lucky to start my social networking existence on Twitter with some very good and ethical social networkers yourself included! This has helped me to avoid "putting my foot in it" too often but I think that is something that we will all do occasionally (just as we do in the real world) and as you say reflecting and considering what we do is the way to get it right more often.


Anna Hughes said...

Thanks Sarah. I had a bad time about a year ago. Sharing things I'm passionate about. A few people, all the same group of friends started to be quite attacking back. Parenting stuff tends to do that. It was horrible. I had sleepless nights, and don't get much as it is! I defriended a couple, but my biggest learning was to start thinking more carefully about how it was coming across. As a friend said, all this social media stuff has happened so fast that our ability to learn how to use it as effective, positive communication is just not there yet. I agree with you that caution it needed. We have no idea what that person on the other end of the post is thinking or how they interpret our words and images. Anna :)

Sarah Stewart said...

@Jo Thanks for your comment. I am probably not so careful as you are although I always check out something before I share it. Where it gets a tad tricky is...a lot of people may thing you are recommending or endorsing a resource when you share it, but that is not always the case. I share resources but to my mind, leave it to others to decide if it has any worth. But maybe that is an incorrect approach to take?

@Anna, Hey Anna, nice to hear from you. I agree...I have been in sticky situations myself and lived to regret what I have said. In the end, we do the best we can do...follow netiquette...and learn as we go.

Crystal said...

FYI about Serena Tremblay...

Sarah Stewart said...

Thanks for that, Crystal. Funnily enough, I heard from Serena recently and she's doing really well.

Cdnurse said...

I initially felt it was suspicious as an ICU nurse just because of the meds we give crossing over in breast milk as well as the germs and bacteria like mrsa and cdiff. Where is the IV acess or IV fluids surely after given birth if she was breastfeeding the would want her to be hydrates. What is the circuit in her mouth connected to? Not a ventilator you can tell by looking at thw floor next to the bed. Lastly if she was so happy for all of the help she received why not explain your whoke story what caused you to be a quad? Why not name the hospital and rehab center that facilitated this? Cant always believe social media.

Sarah Stewart said...

Hi CDNurse, I have actually spoken to Serena, and this was a genuine story, and she is doing very well now. Thank you.