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How to communicate using social media

Personal digital footprint

Every time someone posts a message in an on-line space they are actively creating their own ‘digital footprint’. This footprint may be more or less invisible depending on where they post. With the rise of SoMe, the way in which the radiography workforce can communicate internally and externally means that they have the potential to create a positive and impressive footprint. Through SoMe, the radiography workforce can create a professional, competent profile: raising awareness of important professional issues; promoting evidence-based practice; alleviating the concerns of the public and sharing and disseminating research. 

SCoR encourages the idea of the ‘public radiographer’: someone willing and able to share their profession-specific knowledge. However, the radiography workforce also has a responsibility to uphold the outstanding reputation of the profession and to exercise good and ethical judgement in any public comment. Furthermore, the radiography workforce has an obligation to respect the confidentiality and privacy of information entrusted to them in the course of their employment. Remember that in commenting on SoMe, you do so as an HCPC registered professional, a representative of the radiography profession and an employee. For instance, if your employer’s name appears in your personal profile then any comment you make is deemed to be representing the views of your employer. So while SoMe creates new opportunities for communication and collaboration, it also presents important responsibilities for the radiography workforce. Clearly your digital footprint has the potential to impact on how the public perceive not only the individual but the radiography profession as a whole.

There is a belief that ‘private’ groups can eliminate these concerns. This is false because written communication is always at risk of exposure and being made public. Instead of hiding behind private groups and pseudonyms, the radiography workforce is encouraged to be transparent and have confidence in their professional ability to communicate with integrity at all times. However, it is still important to think carefully before you send any messages. For example, don’t send anything when you are feeling emotional or negative about an issue. As with face-to-face communications, consider the effect your post will have on the recipient and respect their dignity and feelings at all times. 

According to Wikipedia, Internet ‘Trolling’ is the deliberate posting of inflammatory messages to hurt or disrupt the flow of discussion. Cleary this type of activity would be considered a breach of the HCPC’s Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics and the SCoR Code of Professional Conduct. Furthermore, should you witness trolling you have a professional obligation to point out the inappropriate nature of such behaviour. If you suspect you are a victim of trolling you are advised not to respond further, and withdraw from the discussion and thread. Also, consider the use of 'blocking' and 'reporting' functions found in some SoMe platforms.

Think carefully before engaging in debates related to personal beliefs around sensitive topics as these can cause hurt and upset no matter how unintentional (Town, 2015)1 They can also be misinterpreted as being endorsed by your profession or employer. If you do engage in personal discussions you need to state clearly that these are your own beliefs.

Fortunately, unlike face-to-face communication, online media provides a time gap between interactions and you can use this space wisely to think about the purpose and impact of your message. Once you have clicked ‘post’ it cannot be easily retracted (Town, 2015).2

In summary, as a professional, members of the radiography workforce need to be mindful of what their digital footprint says about them and their profession. It is a useful exercise to ‘Google’ your name to see what can be gleaned about you. What does the information say about you and is this identity one you wish to portray? It is a good idea to consider what you would like your on-line identity to be and to always strive to communicate in such a way as to leave a digital footprint that reflects this intention. This goes as far as considering the appropriateness of your usernames and Twitter handle. 

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