Navigating the Social Network
By Diane M. Goodman, MSN-C, APRN, CCRN, CNRN
The story began with only two of us; friends who needed to stay in touch through a challenging time when both of us had been diagnosed with a taxing illness. We needed a way to keep one another informed, updated and uplifted during good times and bad; infusion days, diagnostic excursions and thoughtful reflections on the "meaning of life."
Unfortunately, we had never sent a "tweet," but felt strongly compelled to do so if the resulting communal prayer would prove helpful in keeping us calm and connected. Soon, we joined Facebook for essentially the same reason. Initially, we posted benign comments and captivating photos of dogs, cats, children and siblings, but these quickly fast-forwarded to the intended "meat" for discussion: who needed treatment and when. We kept our comments brief and disguised with humor or sarcasm.
Along the way, we were distracted with excursions to Farmville, Frontierville and Bejewled, but this grew stale. We had bigger fish to fry and often left our crops to wither or be tended by friends. Also, being healthcare providers, we remained mildly anxious, worried about messages we were putting "out there." Two friends rapidly grew to a dozen or more, as we received warm thoughts from acquaintances in high school, previous employers, friends and (surprise!) reflections from an international following.
At that point, we determined to manage our "posts" wisely, sharing minimal details about the trials we faced. Nothing was posted unless it was positive, upbeat and (quite frankly) generic, for we did not want peers or employers to think illness affected our attitude, vigor or long-term professional viability. As we frequently assured one another, we were in charge and planning to stay that way.
Unfortunately, we had seen friends share posts about a rough day at work, ranting in frustration, blasting co-workers and "naming names." It did not seem coincidental when these friends were bypassed for special projects or promotions as assignments were handed out. Here was a lesson to be learned by everyone.
Social networking has become commonplace (dare I say necessary?) for healthcare providers, perhaps overly so. Do our peers really need to know each time a truffle is found on our "farm," or who might be sleepless and logged onto a computer game at 3 a.m.? It would seem not, especially if these friends happen to be late on projects or looking more fatigued than usual during meetings.
As the two of us have learned, social networking can provide an excellent means of thanking friends for prayer and concerned thoughts. Unfortunately, the Internet is also loaded with potential land mines for those who "lose" themselves in its complexity or are drawn into the (seemingly) benign anonymity of a web page.
Be careful what you choose to share. Anonymity does NOT exist on the Internet, as many have found. It is merely a mirage for the uninformed. Instead, we learned to think of postings as friendly conversation, but not secluded, private conversations. Postings should be thought of in the framework of "elevator" conversations. We would not be willing to share personal conversations in a full elevator or while walking through a crowded hallway. These experiences would, however, prove a great time for sharing an innocuous pet picture or discussing a movie review.