Summer is the time of year when we tend to stay up later and play outside more often, feeling entertained by baseball games, ocean waves, fireworks, and nighttime strolls. As a result, I think it’s easier for us to spend less time on our electronic gadgets. Kids and adults alike should take advantage of that respite, using the longer days and warmer weather to reconnect with nature and with other people. And yet, social media is a deeply established reality and an integral part of our daily lives. The ongoing challenge is how to navigate the balancing act between living in the moment- face to face- and turning to cellphones, Ipads, and laptops for information, connection, and entertainment.
I went kicking and screaming into the electronic age, and still work hard to limit the amount of time I spend on my cellphone or on-line. I’ve spoken up many times about the dangers of social media, particularly for teenagers. I remain deeply concerned about the impact of cyber-bullying, the loss of social skills and the art and satisfaction of face-to-face communication. I’m worried about the ways in which genuinely intimate friendships get replaced with artificial ones “on-line,” and continue to encourage parents to monitor what their kids are viewing and saying in an effort to protect their safety and catch the red flags that indicate depression, suicidal ideation, or self-destructive behaviors.
However, I’ve also learned that there’s an upside and important place for all things electronic, particularly as vehicles for professional connection and growth. Now I surf the Internet for scholarly articles or the name of an out of state therapist who has a specific expertise that someone needs, Google keywords to find a clinical topic of interest, or search on YouTube for an inspiring Tedtalk. I continually discover wonderful resources that enhance and deepen my knowledge base and enable me to pass those resources on to others. The bigger surprise is how expanding my outreach through platforms like a professional Facebook page, LinkedIn, and Twitter has connected me to an amazing, international community of colleagues who are eager to learn, gracious in their appreciation of my ideas, and equally generous in wanting to share their knowledge and experiences. In a sense, social media has given us a “world” classroom.
I know I was not alone in my lack of acumen about how to use these platforms. I don’t think this form of communication is second nature to clinicians of my generation! The idea of becoming an on-line “thought leader” or knowing how to promote your clinical practice is not something that is taught in graduate school. Therefore, I’ve also learned that it’s equally important for clinicians to get professional guidance on how to make the most out of social media. For some folks that might mean a series of humbling tutorials with their eye rolling teenager! And for others it means hiring a creative social media expert or team to help build a website, learn how to become a presence on LinkedIn, or post words of wisdom on a professional Facebook page. I reluctantly took that leap and have become so grateful for the professional dialogue and growth it has created.
How do you use social media in your professional life?