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June 8, 2013

Professional Issues Class Post: Social Media and SLPs

Facebook. Pinterest. Linked-In. YouTube. Twitter.....these and more have become a daily stop for people across the country (and world). Social media has grown and expanded from just being a way for people to keep in touch, but it's now an instrument for businesses, religious communities, politicians and professionals like speech-language pathologists.  Discuss the role of social media in your education.  Then talk about how (if?) you anticipate using it professionally.  Are there more disadvantages or advantages? What are the cautions for you, your clients, and the professions? 

I gotta admit... I have a love-hate relationship with social media.  On the one hand, I love the ways that social media sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter can be utilized to share ideas, collaborate, and stay connected with other like-minded professionals.  On the other hand, I can easily see how so many options to stay online and connected could become negative distractions.

The Good:
First, let's talk about the reasons why I love having an 'online presence' with regard to social media.  I absolutely LOVE the sense of community that social media can provide for those within the communication disorders profession. Additionally, since 100% of my Pre-SLP and graduate school work was completely online, I feel a large sense of my accomplishments were aided by having an online connection, namely through the use of a class cohort Facebook group.  This group proved to be incredibly important as myself and fellow classmates could collaborate on therapy ideas, ask questions and gain clarification on assignments, remind each other of important due dates, cheer each other on accomplishments, or just commiserate in our experiences.  I firmly feel that my academic performance was directly and positively impacted by my experiences within the FB group, something that is incredibly important for online students, since none of us had the luxury of what traditional students can take advantage of, in the form of direct classmate and professor interaction.

In addition, I used sites like Pinterest and followed helpful SLP bloggers (look under my favorite links for the ones I most frequent!) so that I could gather helpful therapy ideas, materials, and information relating to the field. Another heavily-utilized site was YouTube, in which professors were able to share videos of specific information that was relevant to the class topic; reversed, as online students, there were several assignments and projects which required the use of videotaping to show practiced skills or complete tasks required and YouTube was an easy way to upload and share such videos with fellow classmates and professors.  Also, as I prepare for graduation, the prospect of employment is always close to my mind, and I've approached the idea of presenting my experiences on the website LinkedIn to ensure that I am creating viable networking associations, just as many of my fellow classmates have done as well.  Last, this blog has been my latest endeavor to expand my sense of community within this profession by offering insights, resources, ideas, and everything in-between, and I love the feeling of having a venue to share my passion for the profession.

I honestly don't think that I would have even ever been able to continue my academic career without the aid of an online program--logistically, when I first began this endeavor, I didn't live anywhere near a communication disorders graduate program.  I was working in a school system as an SLP-A and wanted to continue my real-world experience without having to prematurely give up the position I was learning the most information from... and being an online student allowed me to do both at the same time.  Thank you, internet!

Last, I had the luxury of attending the 2012 Atlanta ASHA National Convention, and there was an overwhelming theme of social media promotion that I was astounded and excited to see (ASHA's social media information).  Participants were encouraged to tweet #SLPeeps and #ASHAConvention2012 to increase a sense of community and collaboration and I gotta admit, it sure was catching!

To recap, here's a comprehensive (but not exhaustive) list of social media outlets:

ASHA's Social Media Outlets:
ASHA Facebook
ASHA Community
ASHA's Pinterest Page
ASHA's Twitter

The Bad:
And now... the flip of the coin--why social media and too much internet can actually be a bad thing (in my opinion).  One word: distraction! I sometimes fear that the integration of so many social and online networks can create great distractions to proficiency and, perhaps, professionalism (more on that in a bit). I can't count how many times I've sat down to complete some honest, solid work on something, be it a class project, assignment, or even clinical preparations, only to get side-tracked by spending time on Pinterest or Facebook instead. Sometimes the internet seems like a black hole, where productive time just seems to get sucked in by all of the other means of entertainment.

Another area of concern is that of privacy, or on the other hand, overshare.  As clinicians, we must always ensure that we maintain an aura of professionalism and I think we have all heard the horror stories where people have accidentally overshared, or failed to realize what they were sharing was public rather than private, and ended up loosing their jobs, or worse, over social media gaffs and accidents.  The horror!  Posting personal photos to Facebook may seem like a good idea at the time, but one must always consider the notion that even the strictest of privacy settings is no guarantee that your words or actions won't reach the wrong hands, or eyes!  When in doubt, always err on the side of caution!

The Summary:
In short, I think social media and internet applications can be quite beneficial if used in the proper contexts.  As with any profession, great caution must be used in order to ensure that privacy measures are considered, time management is effective, and every interaction is as professional as possible.  I think anything in moderation is acceptable, provided that precautions are made accordingly with regard to the concerns I mentioned in the above 'bad' section.  It seems that everyone has an online presence nowadays, with websites for everything... schools, churches, businesses, etc. Social media has allowed many professionals to come together and collaborate when there once was a time when such practices were impossible, and I think that is always a good thing.

Speechie Evie's Social Media:

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