At the start of my placement, I did a blog about maintaining professionalism online and how important it is to be professional at all times especially when undertaking a #VirtualOTPlacement.
It is all good being professional online, but if this is not used with the correct safety precautions the chances are that the account will not last very long. I have directed a few people who want to connect with disabled people to online communities, but the truth is many people are afraid of being online due to the fear of getting cyberbullied or the pressures of maintaining an online profile and I completely understand. But if social media profiles are used correctly and safely, they can have many positives.
This blog is an essential part of my placement for my own learning as well as yours so to make sure I get it right I have been doing some essential research this week looking at the HCPC guidelines.
The first guideline I came across was about using disclaimers where possible which is something that I have done in the past and quite recently for my OTalk. My OTalk was quite a sensitive topic about disclosure, therefore I put a disclaimer out at an hour and then every 15 minutes before my talk so that people were aware.
It is hard to create a safe space online because everything is out there for the world to see but the little things help to make an online space more comfortable for everyone. Not just that, disclaimers are also useful if something you share contains offensive language or scenes of violence not that I share much offensive content on my personal account never mind professional. But you never know you might just want to share a clip of a comedian talking about a relevant topic but still, you need to warn others who may have kids around that there is a naughty word or two.
Another guideline, that I felt was important was, to be honest, and trustworthy. This was explored in my online professionalism blog, but it is important to help maintain safety too. If you are doing a #VirtualPlacement of any sorts, you do need to make sure your honest, because if not this could be dangerous in terms of the safety of other people who read your content as they trust you. Particularly if you’re writing a blog that gives out advice, like this one, most of us including myself are aware of these guidelines but I still used online resources to ensure this it’s correct making it feel safe for those reading.
Similar, to the guideline above, you also need to make sure that everything you post is suitable and relevant to the purpose of your social media profile. Again, this may feel like I am talking about professionalism but if you are thinking about the bigger picture (which you should always think about when working online) this come under safety as well. If you post something irrelevant even in a jokingly manner, it is there for the rest of the world to see meaning that someone could follow you that you don’t particularly want to follow you. At times if someone out of the ordinary follows me that doesn’t show any interest in disability or isn’t a professional, I get a bit wary which leads me onto my next tip…
It’s easy to stay if you don’t know them to block them but this message could be an exciting opportunity, so you need to be really wary and think carefully about your next move…
Having a visible online profile means that you can get private messages from people you don’t know on a regular basis and the more followers you get the more random messages you’re likely to get as well. Don’t get me wrong sometimes a ‘random’ message can turn into a future collaboration and an exciting opportunity. But if it’s not and is making you feel uncomfortable just block them, your safety come first not to mention that your safety is the only safety you can control online!
If it contains an unusual link do not click it!
When I’m writing this blog although it coming to you through an occupational therapy lens, but, I also have a disability and I get that online safety is a massive thing. As a disabled individual I know first-hand, what it’s like to feel vulnerable is any situation not just being online. So, considering all the negative situations that happen through social media it is easy just to want to delete your account but blocking them and reporting them does work. I have had situations where I’ve had to block people and for a few days after I’ve felt silly and like I’ve done something wrong to draw this kind of attention. But I assure you it’s not your fault and the best way to say safe is to block them and move on. Don’t let anyone rain on your parade!
But if you don’t need to be public don’t be public!
I’ve previously mentioned I’m public on most platforms due to the nature of this placement and my work outside of university but that’s my choice. Who’s to say you can’t do this placement privately and just publish blogs anonymously. The core values and goals of my placement are to educate people about the impact of online communities, but this is only because I wanted to do this. If I’d had gone with my original plan and created an online intervention it would have been a lot more private- just me and the services users in a closed online group. So, if you don’t feel safe having your name and face everywhere online you can still have an online career or take part in an online placement just make sure everything is secure. However, I would still recommend that you post a bit of a bio and a picture of yourself to reassure your clients if you’re not using video call. But this can still be private, so it only goes out to who you want to see it.
My last tip I read on a flyer my university sent out which was to regularly Google yourself which I often do (and not for egotistical reasons). If you are a bit unsure about the safety of your profile, log out of it and Google it. On some platforms, they have a view as a reader button so you can see how it looks like from a viewer’s perspective. This helps you to know what others can and can’t see, to check the security of your profile. I often do this with my website to make sure that all my links are safe.
I hope this has helped those that are thinking about doing a virtual placement or creating an online profile. The online world can be scary, and we can’t ignore the fact things such as cyberbullying, catfishing and scams happen. But if you maintain online safety, check your security settings regularly and be vigilant about what you post and who you message, social media can have so many benefits.
Thank you for reading,