Permanent Twitter Ban of Extremist Influencers Can Detoxify Social Media

Banning right-wing extremists from social media can reduce the spread of anti-social ideas and conspiracy theories, according to Rutgers-led research.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the ACM on Human-Computer Interactionexamined what happens after individual influencers with large followings are banned from social media and no longer have a platform to promote their extreme views.

“Removing someone from a platform is an extreme step that should not be taken lightly,” said lead author Shagun Jhaver, an assistant professor in the Department of Library and Information Science at Rutgers-New Brunswick. “However, platforms have rules for appropriate behavior, and when a site member breaks those rules repeatedly, the platform needs to take action. The toxicity created by influencers and their supporters who promote offensive speech can also silence and harm vulnerable user groups, making it crucial for platforms to attend to such influencers’ activities.”

The study examined three extremist influencers banned on Twitter: Alex Jones, an American radio host and political extremist who gained notoriety for promoting conspiracy theories; Milo Yiannopoulos, a British political commentator who became known for ridiculing Islam, feminism and social justice; and Owen Benjamin, an American “alt-right” actor, comedian and political commentator who promoted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories and anti-LGBT views.

The researchers analyzed more than 49 million tweets referencing the banned influencers, tweets referencing their offensive ideas, and all tweets posted by their supporters six months before and after they were removed from the platform.

Once they were denied social media access, posts referencing each influencer declined by almost 92 percent. The number of existing users and new users specifically tweeting about each influencer also shrank significantly, by about 90 percent.

The bans also significantly reduced the overall posting activity and toxicity levels of supporters. On average, the number of tweets posted by supporters reduced by 12.59 percent and their toxicity declined by 5.84 percent. This suggests that de-platforming can improve the content quality on the platform.

Researchers say the study indicates that banning those with extremist views who are promoting conspiracy theories minimizes contentious conversations by their supporters. The data from the study will help social media platforms make more informed decisions about whether and when to implement bans, which has been on the rise as a moderation strategy.

“Many people continue to raise concerns about the financial benefits from advertising dollars tied to content that spreads misinformation or conducts harassment,” said Jhaver. “This is an opportunity for platforms to clarify their commitment to its users and de-platform when appropriate. Judiciously using this strategy will allow platforms to address the problem of online radicalization, a worthy goal to pursue even if it leads to short-term loss in advertising dollars.”

Future research is needed to examine the interactions between online speech, de-platforming and radicalization and to identify when it would be appropriate to ban users from social media sites.

Are Your Tweets Feeling Well?

Twitter analytic data chart

In the future, public health workers could monitor trends on social media to quickly identify a rise of influenza, depression or other health issues in a specific area, thanks to research at the Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratorya (PNNL).

Public health trends on social media are more nuanced than looking for spikes of “I feel sick” or “flu.” To truly tap this source of public data, researchers at PNNL sought to understand patterns of how people behave differently on social media when they are sick. The researchers uncovered the expression of opinion and emotion as a potential signal on Twitter, as reported in the journal EPJ Data Sciencea.

“Opinions and emotions are present in every tweet, regardless of whether the user is talking about their health,” said Svitlana Volkova, a data scientist at PNNL and lead author of the study. “Like a digital heartbeat, we’re finding how changes in this behavior relate to health trends in a community.”

From millions of anonymous tweets, a digital heartbeat

At a time when corporations mine information from social media accounts for targeted advertising and financial gain, researchers at PNNL asked how they could use this data to benefit the public. One of those areas is public health. It takes health workers weeks to discover influenza trends the traditional way: by monitoring how many sick people visit clinics. By discovering trends in real time, social media could be the game-changing solution public health workers have been looking for.

But can tweets replace a health exam for detecting a rise in the flu or other health threats? Volkova’s research suggests so. The research team studied 171 million tweets from users associated with the U.S. military to determine if the opinions and emotions they express reflect visits to the doctor for influenza-like illnesses. They compared military and civilian users from 25 U.S. and 6 international locations to see if this pattern varies based on location or military affiliation.

For privacy, the tweets used in this study were anonymized. The goal of the research is to discover generalized public health trends, not diagnose the health status of individual users.
Overall, they found how people behave significantly varies by location and group. For example, tweets from military populations tend to contain more negative and less positive opinions, as well as increased emotions of sadness, fear, disgust and anger. This trend is true regardless of health.

The baseline is fuzzy, and that should be no surprise. People behave differently based on the world immediately around them. To that end, the researchers identified location-dependent patterns of opinion and emotion that correlate with medical visits for influenza-like illnesses. And a general trend did appear: Neutral opinions and sadness were expressed most during high influenza-like illness periods. During low illness periods, positive opinion, anger and surprise were expressed more.

Next, the research team will study whether these behaviors can be used to predict a change in health trends before they happen. If this method works in real time, public health workers could look into the future by asking “How are your tweets feeling?”

Technology and Children: A Parent’s Survival Guide

Technology has changed the way children develop and interact with others, and while it seems to change every day, many parents are forced to keep up or get left behind.

Jessica Mirman, Ph.D., an assistant professor in the Department of Psychology in the University of Alabama at Birmingham College of Arts and Sciences, says that, even though much of technology can receive a bad representation, it is not inherently bad.

“Parents can be pretty sophisticated with technology when it comes to helping their children develop,” she said. “There are a variety of apps that can help with literacy skills. Especially for children with developmental disabilities, technology can be very helpful at home and in the classroom.”

Play it safe

Mirman says technology can be a distraction and a safety hazard across developmental periods.

“Parents need to be aware of what kinds of devices are in their homes and vehicles,” she said.

Whether it is about accidentally swallowing button batteries, the tiny batteries often found in musical greeting cards, games, Christmas ornaments and cameras, or the risks of texting and driving, Mirman suggested that parental vigilance can save lives.

“For example, button batteries are small, shiny, and very appealing to infants and toddlers who may try to ingest them,” she said. “Parents need to keep these and other batteries out of reach and keep devices secure with openings kept shut.”

The types of technology risks can change with age. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, in 2015 alone, 3,477 people were killed, and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. During daylight hours, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cellphones while driving. That creates enormous potential for deaths and injuries on U.S. roads.

“We always worry about when teens, and parents too, are glued to their phones while driving,” Mirman said. “There is also teen driver safety research that says when parents are calling, teens feel that they are expected to answer, even while driving. Parents need to remember to practice what they preach and model healthy technology habits at home and in the vehicle.”

What’s trending?

Social media is another way technology changes how people develop, according to Mirman. She says social media is a good tool to keep people connected; but there are guidelines and boundaries parents need to set, starting again, with practicing what they preach.

“Parents should practice moderation and respect for others on social media,” Mirman said. “Kids are very observant, and they will pick up on what parents do and often mimic those behaviors.”

She says children and teenagers are quick to point out any hypocrisy in parents.

Widespread and improved mobile technology means teens can access social media more easily. According to a Pew survey conducted during 2014 and 2015, 94 percent of teens who go online using a mobile device do so daily.

Mirman says parents who monitor their children’s social media usage need to start early to develop a foundation of trust with their teens. Parents cannot be around all the time, and teenagers will need to understand why they need to follow the rules, even when Mom and Dad are not watching.

“If an older child or teen really wants to get their hands on something online, they will likely find a way to do it,” Mirman said. “That is why parents need to be clear about their reasoning for why the rules are in place and not just be an enforcer of the rules.”

Screen time

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, children younger than 18 months should avoid the use of screen media. Between ages 18 months and 24 months, some screen-time can be introduced, with parental supervision. Between the ages of 2 and 5 years, a maximum of one hour a day is recommended. For children above the age of 6, consistent time limits should be established.

Marcela Frazier, O.D., an associate professor in the UAB Department of Ophthalmology, says the amount of screen time a child has can have a negative impact on their eyesight.

“The more time children spend on devices, the less time they spend outdoors, and spending time outdoors could slow down the progression of nearsightedness, which is becoming more and more prevalent in children,” Frazier said. “Prolonged exposure to the screens of devices can cause eye fatigue, eye irritation and headaches due to the increased demand on the visual system and the tendency to not blink while using them.”

Frazier says adults usually report symptoms like eyestrain, dryness, headaches and eye irritation after prolonged use of near devices; however, children may experience these issues and not be able to communicate them accurately. Parents may notice some signs of eye irritation and fatigue related to screen-time in children manifested as excessive blinking, squinting, watery eyes, red eyes and some eye-rubbing.

The flip side

Mirman says much research has been done involving children and technology, but what happens when the parents are addicted to tech?

“If parents are distracted, they can’t pay attention to their children,” Mirman said. “Kids notice this quickly.”

She says, by being distracted with technology, parents can make their children feel rejected or unimportant. A more fluid boundary between home and work can add to that distraction.

Finding a remedy

Mirman says technology can be good, if used in moderation. Many kids can use age-appropriate video games as positive stimulants, and can use them as a way of positive social interaction with online multiplayer games. This can be especially helpful for socially marginalized children and teens.

“A lot of kids can make positive connections with others through multiplayer games or social media that they may not necessarily make in person,” she said.

She says it is important for families to create a positive culture around the phones and devices, and practice what she calls “phone hygiene.”

“Developing healthy habits is important not just for you but for the well-being of the entire family,” she said.

How to Find a Job Using Social Media?

Finding a new job, or changing your existing job for career advancement comes with significant challenges. As the pool of aspirants is hugely competitive, recruiters analyze your resume along with your past professional experiences and social presence. So, you’ve to stand out from the crowd to make your dreams come true. Today, a majority of the recruitment agencies and employers are utilizing social media to find the right employee, which means social media plays a crucial role in your job search endeavor.

Social networking sites have become a significant platform to advertise your skills. They empower you to identify job opportunities, establish your social presence, network with people in your niche online and finally, turn those leads into actual job opportunities. Job searching has changed significantly over the last few years. These days, applicants don’t need to wait for the Sunday newspaper to search the job section for ideal opportunities.

It’s a commonly asked question that despite having various online recruitment platforms such as Monster, Recruiter, Ladders that demonstrate almost every kind of job listing and deliver your CV automatically to the recruiters, do you really need to utilize social media to get a new job? Well, according to a study conducted in September 2015 by the Society for Human Resource Management, 19 percent of recruiters hired from Facebook, 57 percent of them hired from LinkedIn while 65 percent of them utilized some mode of social media to recruit. Through this post, we’ll discuss how you can have a fruitful job search by using social media.

1. Build your online presence

When prospective employers Google your name, what would they find? This is something you have to meticulously look at because these days, most recruiters use Google to search the profile of their prospective job candidates to see what comes up. If the search results show some unprofessional posts or pictures, then it’s time to revamp your online image. In the same context, a significant number of job searchers believe that LinkedIn alone can help you find your dream job and lead you to an interview. While this platform is the most useful choice, you simply can’t undermine the significance of Facebook and Twitter.

It’s important to note that employers usually use LinkedIn for assessment of skills and Facebook for your personality evaluation. Thus, it makes sense to update both platforms regularly to attain the best results. However, regardless of the platform you use, make sure to create professional and compelling looking profiles that exhibit your varied skills, job history and the recognition you’ve got. Your profile have to be strong enough to make prospective employers interested at the first glance as then only will they invest further time to explore the rest of your details. If you don’t hold a LinkedIn account, make sure to fill the gap by using your Facebook account completely. Mention your job regularly on Facebook and share the things you’ve accomplished. Remember – if you can’t resist yourself from posting something negative about your job, ensure the privacy settings for those posts aren’t set to public.

2. Optimize your LinkedIn profile

With approximately 400 million global members, LinkedIn has become the largest professional social site across the world. With most of the hiring managers, head-hunters and leading recruiters actively searching for potential candidates on LinkedIn each day, it makes sense to have a solid presence on this site. Your LinkedIn profile is quite similar to writing your online resume. However, the advanced technology aspects of this platform provide you with some other highly useful features such as “Endorsements”. LinkedIn allows you to incorporate personal testimonials. So, ask your friends, manager, colleagues or customers to write a few positive lines about your capabilities on your profile page.

Your first step is to make sure that your profile is impressive, searchable and professional. Regularly update your profile with new skills, tweak the texts for easy reading and include industry buzzwords that employers will be looking for. Remember that the content of your profile shouldn’t just contain your skills but also demonstrate the impact you’ve created on your previous employers so that head-hunters can easily understand the advantage of bringing you on board.

Add a suitable picture to your profile to develop trust with others online. Use a picture that mirrors how you’d look at the workplace and stay away from uploading pictures from casual nights out. Now, start building a professional network by connecting with recruiters, hiring managers and colleagues in your industry. The more connection you have, the more your opportunities will be. So, connect with as many relevant people as you can.

3. Create a professional Facebook profile

Although Facebook is quite an informal medium and mainly used by people to connect with family and friends, it’s being used by various companies too for commercial purposes. Some of them use it to communicate with their customers, staff and the wider audience (to receive their views and comments as well as respond to their feedback etc), while some others use it to vet and recruit potential candidates. Remember that boundaries on Facebook between personal and professional matters are quite blurred, which makes it important to be always aware of what kind of information about yourself can be viewed and by whom.

From a job searcher’s viewpoint, Facebook can be quite useful as you can ask your personal contacts for advice and information about your job search or career and even find valuable information on both organizations and individuals. The informal and interactive nature of this site empowers you to obtain information as well as communicate with prospective employers in a manner that may not be possible elsewhere. Here are some things you can do to optimize your Facebook profile.

  • Professionalize your profile and set the privacy settings the right way
  • Develop your network by joining relevant groups
  • Apply for jobs through the “Facebook Marketplace”
  • Start discussions with organizations and people in your industry

Facebook can be significantly useful for learning about your future employer but you need to be cautious about posting unfiltered comments as that may cost you your career.

4. Connect with potential recruiters on Twitter

 

Although Twitter isn’t a professional networking social media site as such, still there are many ways you can reap the benefits of this platform to find job opportunities and connect with professionals. It’s a platform mainly used by people to exchange and post short messages. It’s used to interact with other organizations or people the users find useful or interesting, including attaching photos or links that users want to share with their respective Twitter community. Businesses utilize Twitter to advocate their expertise, services and attract people to visit their site. When using this platform for your job search, you’ve to be professional. Remember that when you’re trying to grab the attention of prospective recruiters, you must represent yourself in a professional and attractive way.

One major benefit of Twitter is its support for free flowing communication that empowers you to directly talk to potential hiring managers and recruiters without having to submit your resume first. In your job hunting endeavor, a significant percentage of your tweets, re-tweets as well as replies should concentrate on the topics which are relevant to the organizations you wish to work for. It’s also a great platform to listen to what people are talking about your future company.

5. Engage with different people in your domain

Only increasing your visibility and activity on various social media platforms won’t help you much when it comes to finding the right job. Gone are those days when you had to put in a lot of work to ask your friends about their connections and where they work to reach prospective employers. Now, you can simply tap your social media networks to find out all the information you need to find your dream job. This could mean anything from getting introduced to the hiring managers at the organizations you wish to work for, get an insiders’ view about the work culture prevalent in your dream company, or much more.

Today, social media has become your own research laboratory as long as you use it in the right way. There are various ways to leverage the benefits of social media platforms. For instance, on Facebook, “like” the pages of organizations you want to work for and join conversations about current industry trends. Follow the same organizations on Twitter and LinkedIn as well so that you become automatically updated about the new recruits as well as product developments.

Accept follow/connection request from all actual people as you never know how a new connection will help you in your job search. It’s rather difficult to obtain a cold contact’s email address when compared to the chances of finding him/her on social media platforms. So, don’t hesitate to send direct messages to cold contacts on Twitter or invite them to connect on LinkedIn to build your network and give momentum to your job search.

6. Demonstrate your expertise

Most people who use social media hold a “what’s in it for me?” sort of mentality and here’s how you can stand out from your competitors. Help people by providing links to important content, answering their queries etc. If you can regularly connect with people on LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter, you’ll be able to build your own brand image on these platforms. You can also find the groups where your industry members are present. Join those groups and introduce yourself to other members. And don’t forget the power of blogging.

Writing a post on your industry-relevant topic shows prospective employers that you’re knowledgeable, have a serious and focused outlook, and have strong communication skills. Remember that your tweets, posts and status updates are platforms to exhibit your knowledge on a certain topic and thus demonstrate your expertise.

Attend related events and conferences and post takeaways. In case you don’t have your personal blog or website, you can use LinkedIn Pulse to post your write-ups and receive a significant number of views, comments and likes from people belonging to different verticals. Your never know – your article could be re-posted and you might grab the attention of a prospective hiring manager or recruiter.

7. Follow industry news

There isn’t a single social media platform that alone works the best for all job searchers. The crucial thing is to identify which platforms are mostly utilized by your industry. Try to find out the latest occurrences by joining specialized groups on social media platforms, signing up for newsletters, participating in various discussion forums and following your industry related blogs. These will help you to stay updated about the latest industry trends and information, thus improving your chances to make connections that might result in job leads.

Following organizations on various social media platforms provides you with current news about them, in addition to disclosing the hot topics and trends prevalent in your industry. You need to be updated about these patterns and discuss them in your network so that you can exhibit yourself as an informed professional with an insider’s edge and come across as someone who is up-to-date about the important happenings taking place in your niche or the industry.
All these will help build trust among your network and let you emerge as a dependable name, who may get noted or recommended for vacant job positions. In addition, when you’re writing your resume, LinkedIn profile or cover letter, you should mention jargon from your industry. This becomes particularly advantageous if you’re waiting to be found by recruiters or hiring managers on LinkedIn.

Now that you know how to use social media to your advantage for landing the dream job, go ahead and put these tips to good use to turbo-charge your job search.

Tweeting the Way to Health: Penn Medicine Launches Center for Digital Health

PHILADELPHIA — Across the world, social media users leave a trail of clues about themselves each time they Tweet, post to Facebook, write a Yelp review, and apply a filter and hashtags to their latest Instagram photo. Under the leadership of Raina Merchant, MD, MSHP, researchers and physicians at Penn Medicine are mining those clues to find what ails them – and how to fix it.

Merchant has been named an Associate Vice President for the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Director of the newly created Penn Medicine Center for Digital Health.

“Connectivity and innovation are central elements of Penn Medicine’s strategic plan, and a large and increasing proportion of our patients engage with the world digitally,” said Ralph W. Muller, CEO of the University of Pennsylvania Health System. “Dr. Merchant’s visionary research is harnessing the power of this engagement to transform the way we deliver health care.”

The Center for Digital Health evolved from Penn Medicine’s Social Media Laboratory, led by Merchant since 2013. Her cultivation of partnerships from across the university — with Wharton, Annenberg, and the School of Engineering and Applied Science — have mapped a strategy and process to systematically evaluate how social media platforms can affect health, and develop new ways for clinicians to improve care delivery through these channels.

Merchant, who is also an assistant professor of Emergency Medicine and has secondary appointments in General Internal Medicine and Anesthesia and Critical Care, began her research career in emergency medicine focusing on cardiac arrest. In 2012, she led the MyHeartMap Challenge, a crowdsourcing contest that sent Philadelphians into the community to identify, photograph, and submit locations of lifesaving automated external defibrillators (AEDs). Using the data gleaned from contest participants, her team created a mobile app that maps AEDs throughout the city, putting them at the fingertips of bystanders who can act quickly to save a life when cardiac arrest strikes.

Merchant describes her team’s research as probing “the social mediome” — a way of collectively describing people or groups based on their digital data merged with their health record data. So far, her work has demonstrated the value of mining Yelp reviews for information about patients’ experiences in hospitals, mapped ways in which social media may be harnessed for emergency preparedness and response, and shown that information donated by patients from their Facebook accounts may be paired with their electronic medical records to yield new insights about their health. New areas of research for the Center for Digital Health include identification of factors linked to depression and obesity, and studying social media to trace language changes that may be associated with Alzheimer’s or other types of cognitive decline.

Merchant earned her undergraduate degree from Yale University. She completed medical school and residency in Emergency Medicine at the University of Chicago and came to Penn as a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholar, joining the faculty in the department of Emergency Medicine in 2010. She has also served as a policy scientist for the Assistant Secretary of Preparedness and Response (ASPR) in the Department of Health and Human Services. In 2012, she was named one of the top 10 national leaders in health care under the age of 40 by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, and she has been named by Philadelphia magazine as one of the city’s top doctors under 40.

How to Build Your Social Media Network

social-media-team

You want to engage on social media, but you are not sure how to connect with people who share your interest? This can be a major challenge for someone without natural influence gained from being in the public such as a celebrity, politician, or even a professor.

In the past when you needed to get out information or create awareness on issues, you had to go through larger businesses, organizations, associations or public relations firm for assistance in hopes they will share with their network. Today, technology and social media makes it possible for you to bypass the gatekeepers and connect directly with the people.

However, it’s much easier to connect with higher profile individuals when you have an established network of your own. One of the best ways to start building your social media networks is by joining an active online group of individuals who share your interests. Engaging in social media challenges is another way to help increase your online followings.

Recently, I had the opportunity to interview Anneke Kraker who is a co-founder of the Global Social Media Challenge along with Hans Versteegh. They are currently hosting a social media challenge in an effort to connect social workers around the globe using the hashtag #GSOMEC

SWH: Tell us about the Global Social Media Challenge and how it came about.

The First Global Social Media Challenge is a fun challenge for social workers to learn more about the impact of social media on the profession. Social Workers who participate receive for 11 days a small challenge in their inbox plus lots of social media tips. Our goal is to grow our networks and increase our impact. In June 2015 I organized the first Challenge in Dutch. It was a huge success with 600 Dutch Social Workers participating. I do this together with Hans Versteegh a social media expert for Social Workers. I almost forgot: the challenge is for free!

SWH: How will this challenge benefit social workers and help them to become more social media savvy?

This challenge helps because we’re in this together. Many Social Workers are looking for ways to benefit from social media. In this challenge we share tips, insights and good practices. Doing this together makes it fun and easy.

SWH: What do you believe are some of the biggest barriers preventing social workers from engaging on social media?

It’s time consuming. It challenges you to find new boundaries. Privacy is also an issue. And some Social Workers struggle with the narcissistic element: you use social media to make connections and in order to do that you have to show yourself. The challenge of day 2 is about selfies!

SWH: What tips can you provide to help them overcome those barriers and to enhance their professional brand?

Hans and I love making fun but we are also very serious about Social Media. We literally challenge Social Workers to overcome those barriers. With tips we make it easy. For example: to overcome the time issue we provide a simple solution on scheduling your updates.

SWH: How is the challenge going so far, and how can people get started even if they missed the first day?

The challenge is going perfect! We have almost 400 participants and people can still join us. They can catch up the challenges they missed because we provide an overview of all past challenges. People can subscribe here: https://annekekrakers.leadpages.co/globalsomec/

https://twitter.com/CFL_Adoptions/status/698134959144488960

Defining “The Value” of Care

Price-and-Value

Social Media is a place to interact and network with fellow professionals. However, it is also a place to problem solve and create dialogue between multiple disciplines. Through my twitter account, I had a chance encounter with a great community called #medpsych which is the brainchild of Dr. Anne Becker-Schutte and Dr. Susan Guirleo. What’s interesting about #medpsych is their focus on “whole-person care”.

The mission of the #medpsych community is to make the connection between physical and brain health. The connection between mental health and physical health can’t be disputed. The more interaction with this healthcare community and others, the link between social work and healthcare is becoming more and more evident.

I want to bring attention to #medpsych chat discussing how one defines value in healthcare. Members of the open #medpsych twitter community include doctors, psychologists, healthcare policy advocates, nurses, social workers, and patient advocates to name a few. As a group, they set out how to determine which healthcare services have value.  These can be powerful interactions across disciplines to help practitioners and service providers to identify what working and help identify areas for more investigation. The question “What does ‘value in healthcare’ mean to you, and how can we make this more than a buzzword”? Here are some of the following answers:

https://twitter.com/mattbc/status/532363839837577216

Defining value started out about the financial value. Does the money we put into the healthcare service yield a cost saving result?  As a group, we started to question whether it is not always about the fiscal value.  If valuable healthcare is not about the money then what is it about?  Insurance companies certainly want to demonstrate programs have “value” in terms of money. In helping make change, “throwing money at the problem” does not always work.

Value seemed to become about the quality of the interaction between the patient and the healthcare provider. This went across the entire spectrum of care and it depends on the point of view. As Scott Strange said in the chat, the provider might think  “I went home fine but I might think I was better off before I came”.

This conversation about value and healthcare can easily be transferred to social work, and how you define value in your work?  Clearly, the interventions we provide have value, but how to we define it? Is it measured by income generated for your program? Is it positive outcome to demonstrate to funders? Asking these purely fiscal and outcome questions are an important part of value, but we must constantly define and redefine value for both service providers and service users.

There needs more interactions across practice areas in the profession in order to better help us define and determine value. It worked for the #medpsych community, and it will work for the social work community. Let’s work together with all stakeholders to better define value in your community. If you are interested in reading the #medpsych transcript, you can read it here.

How do you believe we can better define value of the persons we care for?

Periscope: The Ultimate Tool to Become More Visible

Periscope-thumb

The new wonder in live streaming apps is called Periscope! You’ve probably heard of it. I don’t exaggerate if I call Periscope the ultimate tool to make yourself and your work visible. Periscope offers you an immediate access to your network to bring them live broadcasts. But let’s start at the beginning.

What is Periscope?

Periscope uses the camera on your phone to share in a livestream whatever you want. Your phone becomes a TV studio, and you’re the TV host or the reporter. You can even do your own talk shows. It’s magic! I love it!

Periscope is free and you can get it in your app store. You start making your account and your first broadcast can go live in no time. It works super easy.

Periscope is a product of Twitter. If you own a twitter account, your twitter followers will also be your audience, and Periscope will notify them when you start a broadcast.

Periscope looks like making a video, but there is one big difference. With video, you can edit your video, and do this over and over again. It makes me feel uncertain: will it be good enough or shall I take another shot? Do some more editing? But, Periscope is live and raw with no editing. There’s no time for feeling uncertain. Of course it’s scary to be live but just take a deep breath and go for it.

Periscope is interactive. You can chat with your audience, ask questions, and answer questions. Your audience can also chat with each other. This chat can make a broadcast a bit chaotic but that’s all part of the fun.

A replay of your broadcast is available on Periscope for 24 hours, but you can also use katch.me to archive your broadcasts and keep them available for as long as you wish.

Periscope is still so new that everybody is still experimenting. It’s a playground and you can jump in without being afraid to not knowing the rules. But why should you?

The ultimate tool to increase visibility

It’s a great tool to be visible, and that’s exactly what we need! Show our faces, tell our stories, provide your expertise, or show the results of our work. I’m using Periscope myself for a while now and I discover huge possibilities as a result. I’ve brainstormed a list for you:

  • Share your knowledge: about parenting, abuse, loneliness, health
  • Give a sneak peek at activities in the community center
  • Managers and lecturers in Social Work can share their vision on the profession
  • You can announce a contest
  • You can ask for some input on a project you’re working on
  • Share the weekly activity agenda with the neighborhood
  • Answer questions from clients in a Q&A
  • Broadcast series like a cooking series with recipes of your clients
  • Give a tutorial on how to fill in a difficult form
  • Give a yoga lesson

I’ve decided to do more Periscope broadcasts beside my blogs and webinars on a regularly basis. It will be a regular part of my marketing mix. I’m working with schedules and topics like: marketing tips, social work tech tips, stories, inspiration, share my failures, my insights on social work and much more. You can use a hashtag to announce your broadcasts and mine is #socialscope. Join me for some social work fun and inspiration.

Hearts     ❤     

One more thing: Facebook has likes, and Periscope has hearts. Who’s doesn’t like little colored hearts? If you watch a broadcast and you like what you see you can tap on your screen to share some hearts. So cute!

Now I’m curious about the possibilities you see to get visible with Periscope. Please share them here. And if you’re on Periscope, share your account and let’s connect. Mine is @annekekrakers. Hope to see you soon on Periscope!

Top 4 Ways to Improve #SocialWork

big-change

Recently, I wrote an article entitled, The Top 5 Reasons Social Work is Failing, which has become one of the most read and searched for articles on Social Work Helper since its inception. Whether you agree or disagree with my reasons, we all can agree that social work has some serious issues that must be addressed in order to improve outcomes for social workers as well as the perceptions of our profession with the public. Social work institutions are not providing adequate resources or responses to assist social work students and practitioners engaging or who want to engage in grassroots organizing, social justice advocacy, and public policy reforms.

Part of the job of a social worker is to assess and define the problem, but the other part of our job is to look for interventions to implement in order to limit the effects of the problem while adding protective factors to help increase outcomes. In an effort to be solution focused, I went on search to find actionable interventions that we could implement without needing an “Act of Congress” to get the ball moving. Social workers are the first responders to society’s social problems because we engage people from birth to death in all aspects of their life.

As a social worker, I have counseled an oil executive whose life was failing apart, an engineer after an all night drinking bender, a school teacher contemplating suicide, a man who has taken his family hostage at gun point, and a woman who was shot by her partner to name a few. Pain is universal, and it is not limited by socioeconomic boundaries which is why its imperative for social workers to be apart of the conversations developing public policy.

For Students 

As a future practitioner, you will not be able to work in a vacuum which means you will have to interact with other disciplines in order to be effective in practice. However, social work students rarely interact with disciplines outside of their programs or with social work students from other schools. By working in concert with other disciplines at the higher learning level, we are our best examples of how social work skills translate into other areas.

RICNDue to our isolative nature, what opportunities are we not taking advantage of that will serve us later in the workforce? It’s great to have social work clubs and organizations to increase collaborations within our profession, but it is also equally important to form partnerships and collaborations outside of the profession.

For students, I recommend seeking out the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network at your university, or starting a chapter if your university does not have one.

According the Roosevelt Institute Campus Network Website,

Campus Network develops local laboratories of democracy and policy experimentation where young people can work with community members to innovate, scale, and replicate the best ideas and policy initiatives emerging from our generation.Students have changed policies around predatory lending; established a tax fund in New Haven capable of sending every high-school graduate to college tuition free; and even included an automatic healthcare enrollment policy in the Affordable Care Act. Read More

Don’t miss out on available workshops, fellowships, and connections with community partners because you are afraid to step outside of our social work bubble.

For Practitioners

In school, most of the time, you have access to a support system through your professors, peers, and other services. However, once you enter the profession, it feels like your professional support system diminishes. Many schools don’t dump a lot of resources into developing strong and thriving alumni networks in order to maintain connections to former students that will allow us to interact with each other. Many social workers, especially those on the lower end pay spectrum, may not be able to afford access to a professional association membership or costs for conferences to gain those connections.

alumnifyMany social workers have turned to social media in attempt to forge those connections, but most would prefer an option for these connections to be an extension of their university community. Social media constructs like Linkedin are not designed for you to connect with each other within a Linkedin Group. How do you find alumni in your area when you are looking for a mentor or trying to expand your network for possible employment opportunities?

For practitioners, I recommend to request that your School of Social Work add an Alumnify Network for its graduates.

According to the Alumnify Website:

Alumnify will give alumni the ability to sign in with LinkedIn and receive data on their professional career and interests. It will allow graduates to find each other in their immediate area, making it as easy as possible to grab coffee and network. Alumnify also provides interactive and modern data that helps universities reach your alumni and understand them like never before. Read More

Currently, Schools of Social Work are making important school policies based on a couple of  hundred surveys they can get people to answer. Alumni get tired of the robocalls and email requests only they want something, and we begin to tune them after the second year we leave school. Why wouldn’t they implement a mutually beneficial system which could be free to users or for a modest fee to offset cost?

For Schools of Social Work

If we are going to advance our profession, we need to be engaging in the national conversations and social issues of our day. Social Workers are attempting to find ways to do this on their own, but utilizing social media improperly can have the opposite intended effect. Earlier this month, I wrote another article on how to reduce risks to employment when using social media where I stated,

via Tumblr

As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training.

Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels. Read More

Social Workers should be engaging in national awareness campaigns which can provide many opportunities to showcase our areas of practice and engagement on social policy issues.  Schools of Social Work should be leading the charge, and when used properly, these could become valuable marketing tools for your university while engaging community stakeholders.

If anyone is interested, take a photo or do a vine using the hashtags #TurnOutForWhat and #SocialWork telling why you are turning out to vote on November 4th. Then, tweet to @swhelpercom, share on SWH Facebook Fan Page, or tag me on instagram. I will be happy to share and promote the issues that you care about.

Learn How to Use Twitter Effectively

When I first started blogging, twitter was the number one tool I used to connect with people. In turn, I credit Twitter as the number one factor in growing Social Work Helper’s readership. Unlike other social media platforms, Twitter does not place limits on who you can follow, who can follow you, or who you can tweet to.

If you decide to tweet a member of Congress or parliament, you may actually get a tweet back. Some of my twitter highlights include a tweet from the Oprah Winfrey Network and being retweeted by the US Department of Labor and Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union.

As an individual, you don’t have to wait until #socialwork get its act together and do a better job at promoting the profession. This is something that we can start doing today.

How to Reduce Risks to Employment When Using Social Media

socialmedia

A recent decision sanctioning a social worker for a comment on Facebook by the Health Care Professionals Council (HCPC), a United Kingdom regulatory body, sparked an international social work debate on the use of social media in the workplace. Since the decision, I have engaged in multiple conversations via social media with social workers around the globe on this very topic, and I will admit that I have often found myself in the minority arguing against the HCPC’s decision.

Despite the social worker’s comment failing to meet the test for breach of confidentiality, the majority of social workers favoring the HCPC’s decision believe that any comments related to work or a case posted on social media are grounds for termination or discipline even in the absence of identifiers.

The social worker was not disciplined for Breach of Confidentiality, but it was found that her Facebook post “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” despite not giving any personal information or descriptors about the client.

I am concerned the HCPC decision will set a dangerous precedent by expanding the scope of breaching confidentiality. The term “could lead to a Breach of Confidentiality” is so broad it could open up liability for social workers outside of the internet sphere.

From the HCPC’s press release on the social worker’s disciplinary action, we actually learn more about the client than we learned from the social worker’s actual comment. The HCPC press release states, “Mrs A, the mother of the children in the case, made a complaint after she searched for the social worker on Google and found the posts, which the complainant stated she was “disgusted” by.” This tells us the complaint was a married woman and biological parent of the children in question. Now, these identifiers within itself  “could lead to a breach of confidentiality”.

The social worker’s comments only described that she was working on a “domestic violence case among other things”. The client assumed the social worker was referring to her case because it was a domestic violence case on the same day as the social workers check-in on Facebook. I don’t know about you, but I’ve had three to five cases go to court on the same day and all of them had a domestic violence element. In the absence of identifiers and a decision from HCPC, the client had no real evidence to prove the social worker’s comment was about her case. Sanctions and disciplinary actions in your employment should be based on evidence and not assumptions.

In retrospect, I do believe the social worker’s comments were ill-advised, but it’s not for the reasons you may think. I am definitely against and don’t recommend anyone to commingle your professional life with your personal Facebook account no matter your profession. As a matter of fact, some of the comments I see from social workers on Facebook make me afraid for the client’s they are serving. I do and must believe that social workers have the ability to separate their personal beliefs from practice, but you may not be able to “unring that bell” with clients or potential clients after review of your online persona.

The British Association of Social Workers (BASW) have provided me with one of the best social media policy guidelines to help social workers be aware of the pitfalls when using social media personally as well as using social media to obtain information on clients. However, I have yet to see any real solutions that equally address social workers safety with client centered policies. Also, it’s important for us to acknowledge that clients can’t breach confidentiality in their own case. If a client wants to publish online every document you send them, it’s their prerogative, and you should keep this in mind when providing written documents as well as having oral communications with your clients.

Google, Facebook, and Twitter are the three primary areas that cause the greatest concerns for professionals and students. Here are a few recommendations that may help you move one step closer to having some peace of mind and keeping your job out of jeopardy.

Tips for Using Facebook

10434000_311155715719496_3315011175902307129_nFacebook is a double-edged sword. When used correctly, Facebook can expand your reach as an expert, increase traffic to your website, and allow you to provide support to others on their professional development journey. Where people get into trouble is when they try to occupy their professional and personal life in the same virtual space. This is not limited to commenting, but it also includes likes, shares, who your friends are, photos, and etc.

I recommend changing your personal Facebook page to a nickname/middle name with an avatar or baby picture for your profile and cover photos. True friends and family members will know who you are, and Facebook will automatically update your post search history with your middle, nickname, or alternate spelling. But, be careful because it’s possible for Facebook to flag your name change. You should also take precautions to enhance the security of your Facebook account.

This will help protect you when clients are actively seeking out content generated by your social media accounts. Secondly, don’t post case related items on your personal Facebook account. If you need advice or an opinion related to a case, message the Social Work Helper Fan Page. I frequently post #SWHelper Team Questions as case study questions to minimize risks to you, and I hope other social work entities will offer similar support for social workers.

If you chose to anonymize your personal Facebook account, I recommend creating a Facebook Fan Page in your professional name which can also help with establishing your professional identity.

  • You can post information and resources for your clients
  • You will no longer need to have embarrassing conversations with clients or coworkers about why you can’t friend them
  • Clients can follow your Fan Page without exposing client’s to each other
  • You can like other Fan Pages your clients may find useful while organizing resources in a central location
  • FB feature allows you to seamlessly switch between your FB account and Fan Page without having to log out
  • You can also make comments, like, share photos, and share posts choosing from either profile

To prevent Facebook from locking your account due to the name change, you should use a shortened or variation of your real and last name, a common name with a long search results history, your maiden name, or your middle name. These are just some of the possibilities you can choose to prevent Facebook from blocking your account. So, if you don’t want to explain to a client or an ethics committee about how your personal beliefs did not affect your decision-making due to memes and content found on your social media account, please take my advice above.

Making the Most of Twitter

Twitter is one of the best social media platforms for making connections and expanding your professional network while enhancing your ability to advocate for the causes you care about. However, there are times when you do need anonymity to protect your employment especially if actively engaging in conversations you don’t want public. Due to my personal philosophy, I don’t post comments or materials that require me to distinguish between my professional and personal identity with the exception of the occasional tweet when I am watching Scandal.

If you are using your professional name, potential networkers and possible opportunities are not going to sort out your professional tweets from your personal tweets. They will all be considered a reflection of you as an individual. “RT does not = endorsement” is not going to cut it. It’s safer to not tweet and/or not retweet something you don’t want to defend, but you could always phrase it as a question to ask other’s opinions. Also, I recommend adding the disclaimer “my opinions are my own not my employers” on accounts using your professional name. As a rule of thumb, if your account is going to be opinion filled, use an avatar with a pseudonym for anonymity. It’s better to be safe than sorry later.

When using your professional name, it should consist of useful information, advice, inspirational quotes, resources, and/or projects that make you look good professionally. If you are only on twitter anonymously, you are missing opportunities to enhance your professional development. If you are using twitter with your professional name and it’s a private account, you are still doing yourself a disservice. What’s the point of being on Twitter with a private account because it’s difficult for someone to connect with you and no one can retweet your profound 140 characters?

To Google or Not To Google

As practitioners, we should not be asking whether to Google or Not Google instead we should be giving you the information on how to Google clients and potential clients ethically. According to a recent study by American Psychological Association, 98 percent of clinical, counseling, and school doctoral students reported Googling their clients. It’s time for this profession to readjust our reality for the digital world we are living in. When Googling a client or anyone for that matter, one must keep in mind that everything on the internet is not true, and it should not be used to penalize without giving the individual a chance to respond.

However, for potential clients at a private practice or when making home visits to new clients, a Google search may be a vital tool in assessing social worker safety. Dr. Ofur Zur provides one of the most comprehensive resources on whether to “Google or not”, and its complete with scenarios and varying categories to help practitioners decide which category is best for your practice and needs. It also covers how to use informed consent for conducting Google searches at the beginning of the therapeutic relationship.

How Do We Move Forward?

Unfortunately, many people have been introduced to social media and online technology as entertainment or to be used as a personal diary. Even if your account is marked private, using instant messaging, email, online technology and/or social media should never be used with an expectation of privacy. You should always assume any information you post online can be privy to public consumption via screen capturing or other measures from anyone who is intent on hurting or exposing you.

In my opinion, the social worker in the above case was condemned because her comment was posted on Facebook. I argue that if said social worker made the same comment in a restaurant, classroom, or another public place would the disciplinary action have been the same? The counter-argument was that Facebook is public and archived by Google which makes it different. I assert we all need to be more careful and aware because we live in a digital age where you can be video tapped or audio recorder via camera phone, vined, viddyed, snapchat, etc. The individual in possession of such digital data can make your actions and comments public without your consent. The medium in which words and actions are transported is irrelevant, and it stifles our ability to move the conversation forward instead of focusing on best practices.

Most importantly, one of the biggest issues in the above case not being addressed is that fact the client went onto Google searching for the social worker in question. Community Care UK reported that 85% of social workers reported being harassed or verbally abused on the job. Whether the client was acting with nefarious intent or in preparation for a pending court case, we simply don’t know. However, social worker safety should be just as important as client confidentiality. The biggest mistake made by the disciplined social worker was her checking in on Facebook thereby giving the time and location for when she would be in court. Why are we not being programmed to think about social worker safety as much as client confidentiality is drilled in our heads?

As a profession, we can not begin the journey of leveraging online technology and social media to advance social work because we are stuck having conversations about account creation, security, and ethical use. These things should always be ongoing conversations, but we have got to start making advances in tech education and training. Agencies, associations, and social work faculty can not adequately answer or provide solutions because most don’t use social media or they utilize outside firms to meet their social media needs. There is nothing wrong with contracting out to meet the needs of your organization, but we must also have mechanisms in place to address social workers’ technological IQ at the micro and mezzo levels.

We must develop continuing education credits, foundational course work, and in-service trainings to properly prepare current and future social workers for practice in the digital age. Social Work education is expensive and students should be demanding that they get the best resources and training during their education especially when they can be fired or disciplined for it later.

Most importantly, we have a duty to our students and professionals to assist them in harnessing all the advantages that social media and technology can provide.

*Since this was a UK regulatory body disciplinary action, I primarily used UK resources for this article, but they are applicable globally.

Digital Native or Digital Colonized?

The phrase “digital native” has evolved pretty effortlessly into the common lexicon in the last five years, but is it accurate or a misnomer? The most relevant definition of “native” in this context is “belonging to a person by birth or to a thing by nature; inherent” (Dictionary.com). So do iPads, Facebook, X-box anything else in the digital/online/connected world, to which we may refer to young people as being native, belong to them by birth, by nature or inherently?

Cartoon-baby-with-iPhoneI’m splitting hairs here, I know. The thought only came to me half an hour ago in a discussion with someone who may well be described is “digitally native,” so it’s not like I’ve thought deeply about it. But it’s interesting to consider an alternative frame: that kids and young people aren’t native to technology — they’re being colonized by it.

It’s hard to find a wide enough definition of “colonization” to encompass the socio-cultural meaning social activists and critics ascribe the term, but Wikipedia did throw up an interesting alternative:

Cocacolonization (alternatively coca-colonization) is a term that refers to globalization or cultural colonization. It is a portmanteau [combination] of the name of the multinational soft drink maker Coca-Cola and the word colonization. The term is used to imply either the importation of Western (particularly American) goods or an infusion of Western and especially American cultural values that competes with the local culture.

No, it’s not a perfect match. But think of the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter and other brands that have infiltrated our lives in the last five to fifty years, not to mention the Internet, through which these brands have become globalised to the point of omniscience. It’s not hard to see how these capitalist forces (incidentally Marxist theory equates capitalism and colonialism) have been imported and infused into the lives of our children.

No baby has yet, as far as I know, been born clutching an iPhone, which would better embody the concept of “digital native”. So it’s interesting that we’ve chosen this more benign term to describe a phenomonen that has been imposed on children by the free market.

I’m all for technological development, don’t get me wrong. I’m an early adopter if ever there was one. But as an adult I adopt new technology by choice.

What we need to keep reviewing, I think, is how early we allow children to adopt technology. If we think of them as digital natives, we may be risking the loss of a sense of restraint, which may be leading us to allow them to adopt it prematurely.

The idea of digitally colonizing our kids, on the other hand, may make us think again about how old they are before we let their minds be gobbled up by our smartphone interfaces.

 

Education and Training Versus Experiential Learning

Having recently spent the weekend co-facilitating a leadership programme and then attending a job interview for a part-time communications position at a high-profile charitable organisation, I find myself reflecting on how much I do and have done that I haven’t actually been educated or trained to do.

I began learning to facilitate about twenty to 25 years ago, using my counselling training — communicating through questioning and reflective listening one on one — and applying it to a group situation. The process maps almost seamlessly — all that changes is the content, from an emphasis on personal issues and feelings to social issues and opinions (though feelings also often feature predominantly as well).

1176923_50609724When deciding to apply for the communications role I realised that, though not specifically, communications has featured in just about every role I’ve undertaken to date, but I’ve never trained in media or communications. From managing publications for the Human Rights Commission in the mid-90s, to promoting myself as a comedian, to writing and managing several blogs and websites for Diversity New Zealand and Diversityworks Trust, I’ve done it all, from traditional media releases to social media and networking.

The only other formal education and training I’ve  engaged in was school in the 70s and 80s, followed by two years of social work training in the early 90s.

Of course being self-employed builds the muscle for self-directed learning — anyone who has run a small business, particularly one that’s service-related, knows that you say, “Yeah, I can do that,” first and work out how to do it later.

Furthermore, particularly in the last decade or so of the internet’s existence, there’s probably not a single professional skill or attribute that hasn’t been blogged, tweeted, Facebooked or YouTubed about — and the twenty or thirty different ways of doing it.

Which brings me to the point I want to make. Formal education and training often focuses on only one or two “right” knowledge and ways of doing things, whereas experiential learning clearly highlights there is no single “right” information or way to do anything.

I’m not advocating against formal education and training — my schooling, counselling and social work training have served me well, not to mention various generic leadership and professional development programmes I’ve done over the years.

But in a world that is requiring people to hold far more breadth than depth of knowledge and competence, it’s useful to take stock of those secondary skills you pick up along the way in employment. They may pave the way to fascinating new careers, without the cost and time needed to formally retrain.

4 Reasons the Internet is the Worst Place to Discuss Social Issues!

With the recent #YesAllWomen and #NotAllMen debate flying around it occurred to me that the internet is an awful place to have a dialog about sensitive issues. While people can converse about things that are not emotional charged over the internet like Kittens, they also converse about emotional charged things in smaller groups over the internet on platforms such as Reddit.  Large groups of people can exhibit a mob effect online where individual users parrot inflammatory comments, or type them I guess.

1. We Think We are Actually Contributing to the Cause

via Facebook

Many people, not just a few, share these types of social media posts.  In fact, they often get close to the one million likes they request. We think that our action on the internet is a fair substitution for action in real life. We hit share and pat ourselves on the back, assured in the knowledge that we are helping someone in third world country, end poverty, end violence against women, or whatever the designated cause may be. Yes, you should share these links to help spread awareness about social issues, but it should not be a substitution for getting involved in a cause.

2. People say some insane things….

With the wonders of the internet, you would think people would fact check themselves before posting things. Sadly, they don’t. They don’t even leave themselves grounded in reality most of the time. You have comments like these:

Earth mayatweet

Unfortunately, uninformed posts muck up the argument because people comment back on them as if they are fact or they may dedicate their time pointing out the fallacy of the post. Worse, many people have not learned the internet is a den of lies, and they may interpret uninformed posts as breaking news.

3. We can’t keep a cool head

When did you last yell at a stranger? When did you last type an inflammatory comment on a post on the internet? Point made?

We don’t tend to say mean things or yell at strangers because there are consequences! But on the internet, there really are none. So we type things with out thinking of the consequences or considering each others feelings in the matter. There have even been studies about why we act the way we do.

According to an article in the Washington Journal,

Anonymity is a powerful force. Hiding behind a fake screen name makes us feel invincible, as well as invisible. Never mind that, on many websites, we’re not as anonymous as we think—and we’re not anonymous at all on Facebook. Even when we reveal our real identities, we still misbehave.

According to soon-to-be-published research from professors at Columbia University and the University of Pittsburgh, browsing Facebook lowers our self-control. The effect is most pronounced with people whose Facebook networks were made up of close friends, the researchers say.

Most of us present an enhanced image of ourselves on Facebook. This positive image—and the encouragement we get, in the form of “likes”—boosts our self-esteem. And when we have an inflated sense of self, we tend to exhibit poor self-control.  Read Full Article

If you can’t be bothered to read the article, please refer to this NSFW Penny Arcade comic for a greater understanding.

4. It isn’t a dialog

We would all love to think the internet is a medium for dialog, but it isn’t. Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, Instagram allow you to comment on each others posts. Yes, you can comment back, but people rarely do. Most of the time, they are either parroting the point of the author or seeking to rebut them. Either way, there is no actually dialog occurring.

Don’t worry I am guilty of it too. Share this article and maybe we can work on creating real #InternetDialog.

These images are courtesy of  http://dumbesttweets.com/.

The Isla Vista Attacks Through the Eyes of a Woman and Social Worker

shooting-spree-santa-barbara-may-2014

Women are met with broad scale dismissal of their experiences as they react to Elliott Rodger’s misogynist written manifesto, self-made video and the subsequent Isla Vista stabbing/shooting.  One Time article claimed that the Isla Vista attacks and similar atrocities were caused by mental illness, not misogyny.  The author stated that women perceive misogyny in this act because we receive unequal pay, endure “odd comments” about rape, and are underrepresented in positions of power.

Conversely, blog posts and Twitter trends, such as #YesAllWomen, make it clear that women attribute misogyny to an act where the perpetrator claimed women should die for not giving him the sexual attention he “deserved” because male entitlement to female bodies and violence against women are pervasive social issues.

Identifying misogyny as a contributing factor to this atrocity isn’t just about unequal pay.  When the incident made the news, a friend posted this Margaret Atwood quote to Facebook, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”  This is about the problem of feeling entitled to female bodies: to comment on them, touch them, and to harm them—a reality that women face daily.  This is about living in a society that tells women “don’t get raped,” “you’ll ruin his life if you report it,” and “you were drunk.”

The dismissal of women’s voices and their experiences in society is only one area of concern for me as a social worker.  One of the most prevalent objections to the concerns women have raised is that mental illness is the only explanation for violence.  A spokesperson for Rodger’s family suggested that Rodger’s violent acts were the result of Asperger syndrome.

The same was said for the “Dark Knight” shooter, James Holmes, despite numerous experts decrying the assertion that Asperger syndrome causes violence.  Individuals with Asperger syndrome and their loves ones witness these messages and endure people’s subsequent impositions and assumptions. We must ensure that society is safe and accepting place for individuals with Asperger syndrome that does not send false or negative messages about them.

Recently, while leaving a strip mall with the sunset ahead of me, I made my way to the back parking lot by way of a pathway that separated stores.  It dawned on me in that moment, as it does every time I visit the strip mall, that I am uncomfortable in that lot at night.  It’s closer to the stores I patron which is convenient when I have heavy bags or children in tow.  However, store windows do not face the lot and its distant location from popular stores renders it desolate in the evening.  I forced individual keys from my key ring between my fingers as I walked onto the cracked pavement when I quickly noticed a middle-aged man sitting in the driver’s seat of a pick-up truck watching me intently.

I looked ahead, lamenting that I would need to walk behind his truck to reach my car.  I was startled from my resolve to move forward when his truck engine engaged and his brake lights blinked on just as I was walking behind him.  He hung his head out of the window.

“Oh don’t you worry sweetheart; I’m not gonna hit ya,” he smirked unabashedly and then winked at me.

My stomach lurched in discomfort.  My brain said, get out of here.  I hurried to my car and quickly slid into the driver’s seat.  Like clockwork, I did what I always do when I drive alone after years of encountering strange men in parking lots.  Swing the door closed as I sit, lock door as I find the ignition with my other hand, start car, foot on break, check mirrors, then strap seat belt, prepared to leave at a moment’s notice.  One fluid motion.  Survival.  I was relieved to drive away.

Shaken from the incident, I posted about it to Facebook hoping to find some camaraderie from friends.  In the midst of supportive comments one person defended the man and said, “You’re just looking to be offended.”  She dismissed my intuition and experience and demanded I consider his point of view.  Maybe this was his awkward attempt at being nice?  When she finally concluded that my reaction to the incident was “unladylike,” I hit that trusty “unfriend” button faster than lightning.

My parking lot encounter—the suggestive expression and gendered remark, the contrast between his large vehicle and my unprotected flesh—was itself violent in nature.  When a man touts entitlement to female bodies and plots violence as retribution for being “denied” what he is entitled to, the last thing we should do is dismiss women’s reactions or refuse to look systemically at the issue.

Through engaging in storytelling of just one of my own experiences with gender-based violence as a woman, I hope to contribute to a dialogue that will inspire change.  As a social worker, I know that there are countless ways my profession can serve in the wake of these atrocities.  We can assess these issues at all levels of practice–micro, mezzo, and macro.  We can provide services and evaluate our interventions on each of these levels to address societal violence.  We can stand with women and push back against the dismissal of their experiences.

We can ally with individuals in need of mental health services for policy change from a strengths perspective.  Lastly, we can act as witnesses to those who have experienced loss and trauma, and companion those who grieve as a result of the violence in our society.  Social workers, when it comes to violence in society and those who are victimized by it, our knowledge, skills, and values are needed.  Survivors of violence, we are listening.

Although the view that mental illness is the sole factor behind acts of mass violence does involve a systemic implication that mental health services should be expanded, I respond to this with a strengths based lens.  Yes, access to mental health services absolutely must be expanded.  However, the existing dialogue is often “othering” by demanding help for “those people” as though individuals with mental illness cannot hear what is being said about them.

The dialogue does not acknowledge that a great number of people with mental illness are not violent nor does it highlight their strengths.  It does not empower them to define their own problems or to direct how their needs should be met.  When advocating for policy change, we must ensure that we do not convey damaging or pathologizing messages in the process of doing so.

Ways Millennials Can Step Up their Game and What We All Can Learn

There is an obvious age gap between generations, and each generation face unique challenges of finding their place in society such as the Millennials are facing today. Each generations grows up in a different world full of different problems, yet we all seem to think we can keep things the same way year after year. The reality is times are changing, and we need to all make sure that we as the upcoming generation are prepared to take over for the generations currently leading now. Before that happens, here are few things that we all should be considering.

Ways the Next Generation Can Step Up: 

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Cover of Time Magazine

Stop being lazy and take responsibility. Millennials are constantly chastised for our laziness, addictions to technology, stupid behavior, and unwillingness to work. For many millennials, this is true, but it needs to change. It’s time to grow up, just in some ways. There are problems facing us that we are going to have to deal with someday, and we need to be prepared. You can still have fun and enjoy life, but make sure you are taking initiative, setting goals, challenging yourself and preparing to be leaders in the future. Life is not all about who tweeted at who and who use the Instagram filters the best.  

Find your motivation and passion. I know older people constantly bug you about what you want to do in life, and you have no idea, but that does not mean you cannot explore. It is completely fine not to know what you want to do in life, but doing nothing gets nothing. You also must like to do something. Millennials often underestimate that their interests can turn into possible job opportunities or limit their opportunities based on their major or what their parents/elders tell them they should do. Explore all options! Do not let other people tell you what to do. Your passion comes from inside you, not someone else. Go out there and get motivated!

Listen to more experienced individuals. This is valuable. You should be active trying to listening to people more experienced than you. Why? Because they have experience more than you! Every internship I had, I tried to connect with leaders in the agency and just listened to their story. Whether I believed it was useful or not, I learned how other people developed skills and got to their current position. It’s extremely helpful if you have no idea what to do, or have an idea but do not know which route to take. Learning the pros and cons of someone else’s experiences, can give you the opportunity to learn about paths before you experience them yourself. Also, talking with older people is great; you create a relationships and build your network!

Put down the technology! Now, I know what you’re thinking, I hear this all the time. People are too obsessed with technology now a days. I agree that I cannot live without my phone and my computer, but think about how you use it. Tweeting your every move, posting a picture of every moment, or texting people in the same room as you. Why do you think we have been called the “Me” generation? We are obsessed with ourselves. Put the phone down in social situations. Why don’t you try something crazy and talk to people face to face? Technology should used to advanced society and connect on a larger level, not post your ignorant thoughts or unflattering pictures. People lose jobs over Facebook, people damage relationships over Twitter, and a reputation you have worked years for can be destroyed in a matter of seconds. Learning proper social media and technology practices could go a long way.

Question authority and practices. This is something I constantly do everyday of my life. Why? Because society changes, and the way we run the world should sometimes as well. If you do not understand why things happen a certain way, question it. If you do not agree with how something operates, say something. If you have an idea to make things better, speak up. We need people to step up for what they believe is right in order to effectively collaborate as a society. We need people with many diverse opinions to give their views on how they think what should happen. You cannot complain about how things are run, if you do not contribute to bettering the conversation.

Now that I went over a few ways, millennials can step up their game, let’s discuss some reasons older generations should listen.

You do not know everything. I hate to be blunt, but it is true. This is blatantly evident when I look at the media, read about politicians or listen to people older than me. Many older individuals believe they know everything about the world due to their experiences and a young person trying to tell you something otherwise is foolish. Yes, many times we are wrong or naive about situations, but sometimes we can teach you things too. How else are you going to figure out how to use the new smart phone?

Admit your wrong. Yes, sometimes you are wrong, did you forget that? I am not trying to pick on older generations or be sassy, but really think about decisions and statements you make in your life. We are not the only ones being challenged by every days situations. No one is perfect, and it is ok. Admitting you are wrong and moving forward is a more admirable characteristic than being stubborn.

We think differently. We have great ideas and different perspectives! We will never know if we are doing the right thing, if you do not give us a chance to speak. Whether we are right or wrong, the fact that you took your time to listen means the world. I hated my supervisors when they did not listen to my ideas or thoughts, and they just nod at me to acknowledge I said something. It is frustrating when a person in an older generation does not care we have to say. We are experts in our own ways. Give us a voice for once!

You have not grown up in the same worldWhat worked for you, may not work the same as it would today. It is hard to believe that the world has changed so much in a little time period, but it has. Did you take online courses while in college? Did you have people constantly posting photos of every social interaction to the internet which can then be accessed by everyone in the world? Did you have to take out a more student loans than you will in a home mortgage? Most likely not. Yes we still share similar experiences, but do not assume that back in your day is the same situation as in my day now.

Generations before us made the problems we face today. The economy, climate change, rise in college tuition, poverty, our “laziness”, and many more issues are results of generations before us. You all have dictated the path to where we are today, and we are dealing with it. I am not blaming a particular person, but just keep this in mind before you dismiss my thoughts.

Now that’s done, here are a few things we ALL should be thinking about:

Stop thinking the world revolves around you. It doesn’t and don’t forget it. Selfishly thinking about yourself has led our society to the problems we face today. Don’t think you are any better than anyone else. Focus on how you can contribute back to society and help other people in any way possible.

Never think you are done learning. The world changes everyday, and new things happen. You can always learn something new every day of your life. Do not ever think you are done. Come on Gandhi even agrees.

Give more than you get. I learned this recently in a mentorship program I am participating in. The world is not only about making the best out of it, but giving to other people. The more you give to others, the better you are going to feel. The stronger our society will be stronger as a whole if people just stopped and cared more about other people for a change.

Courtesy of Time Magazine

Let’s Talk About Military Family Mental Health: Tweetchat 5/8/14 #MacroSW

Military service members, veterans, and their families are extremely resilient , but the stress of war, multiple deployments, and frequent moves can impact their emotional, physical, and overall well-being. During the month of May, #MacroSW is teaming up with USC School of Social Work to help raise awareness by inviting our community to participate in the Military Family Mental Health campaign. The goal behind this campaign is to build public recognition about the importance of mental health to overall health and wellness, particularly within the military community.

Join us for the next #MacroSW Chat this Thursday 5/8 6pm PT/ 9pm ET to discuss Military Family Mental Health Advocacy!

  • How are milfamily organizations taking the lead on Mental Health advocacy?
  • What can civilian organizations and advocacy groups learn from the military family groups?
  • What do social workers who work with the military community need to know to provide the best care?

Raise your voice to raise awareness through social media!

  • Stay tuned to the conversation around Military Family Mental Health using #MilfamMH!
  • Take 30 seconds to change your profile picture or cover photo to one of these images during the month of May to show your support for this important cause!

Change your Facebook profile picture:

MFMH.FBProfile

MFMH.MilSpouseFBProfile

MFMH.VetFBProfile

Change your Facebook Cover Photo:

MFMHCoverPhoto2

Share this message with your friends and family on your favorite social platform!:

Facebook/ Google+: This May, I am raising my voice to raise awareness around milfamily mental health. Find out how you can make a difference by participating in the #MilfamMH campaign too!

Twitter: I’m joining the #MacroSW chat hosted by @MSWatUSC to discuss #MilfamMH advocacy on 5/8 6pmPT/9pmET! More info:

Twitter: I’m raising #MentalHealthAwareness this month! Join me and @MSWatUSC for the #Milfam Mental Health Campaign: #MilfamMH

Do You have a blog or Newsletter? Copy and paste this message to show your support!:

“I’m raising awareness for Military Family Mental Health by blogging for the #MilfamMH Campaign sponsored by USC’s masters degree in social work program. Join me in blogging for an important cause!”

Archived Tweetchat:

Can be viewed on Storify at this link.

4 Pitfalls to Avoid When Using the Internet to Find a Job!

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Many of you reading this may be recent or soon to be graduates, and/or  you have been looking at the job market with abject terror. You might feel somewhat akin to how a deer must feel as they are staring at an oncoming car. You know that you need to find a job, but you also can’t seem to make any moves to do so. Well don’t let opportunity pass you by! Don’t fall into these technology pitfalls that can make finding a job even harder!

1. Searching websites like Idealist, Indeed, Craigslist

Yes, those websites are great, but they also create several problems:

  • They encourage you to apply for job with companies that you don’t know about. Which is fine, but you are far more likely to get a job with a company that you know and love.
  • Everyone else is seeing these same jobs, which means you have to stand out in an even bigger crowd
  • These websites can be outdated, there is no guarantee that you applying for a job that even exists!

Solution: Find organizations you know and love! Look for jobs on their website, even better call their HR department. Yes, they might just tell you to look at the website, but you have made an impression that you want the job. The person is even more likely to remember your name. You may also hear about a job before it is posted!

2. Not having a complete Linkedin profile

Good job, you made yourself a Linkedin! Oh, you didn’t complete the whole thing. I guess that is fine, I am sure the person hiring you for your dream job will fill in the blanks though it might not be with what you should expect.

If you are going to have a Linkedin you need to complete it and continue to update it.

  • A post once a week is good, once a month as a minimum.
  • You never really know who is going to look at your profile. You might be missing out on any number of opportunities.

Solution: Complete your Linkedin profile, for those who are not tech savvy and are having a hard time there are many guides out there, call a friend and you can even email me and I will look at your profile and give you some free advice!

3. Mixing Work and Play

  • I am all for people using their computers for fun! By all means have a Pinterest about your favorite band, cat pictures etc. Use your twitter to talk about the latest celebrity idiocy, but please, oh please….
  • Have separate accounts! The last thing you want an employer to see is your drunken, misspelled political rant on twitter.

Solution: Use an Alias for your personal accounts, or just your first name! Make sure they are not linked to the same email address. Setting things to private is not adequate, as nothing is really private on the internet.

4. Not promoting yourself

Again, we live in an age where you never know who might be looking at your online profile!

  • Put your best face on!
  • Make sure your contact information is up to date and most of all promote yourself. It is ok to shamelessly ask your friends to share, retweet, and pin your posts because you will do the same for them.
  • The point of this whole social media world is to have as many people as possible see your best face.

Solution: Share, share, share: make sure you post once a week at least and share it. If you are in a resume pool and the hiring manager has read your blog and loved it you are going to have a huge advantage over someone they have never heard of before!

Now, you know technology can help you find a job, but it can also hinder you.  Make sure you are using it right and remember nothing beats good old fashion legwork!

Bullying Lasts a Lifetime

AmandaToddVideo
Amanda Todd before she committed suicide

There have been several high profile suicides that have been related to bullying. Perhaps one of the most famous in recent times has been Amanda Todd. Her death was preceded by a dramatic video on YouTube which, as of this writing, has had over 26 million views in its two versions. The video showed her placing small placards outlining the significant impact the bullying was having on her. It is perhaps timely to recall her death as an individual has been arrested in Holland related to the online harassment that she experienced.

This reminds us that bullying occurs in quite a variety of forms than just the schoolyard version that is the one many think of when they hear bullying. There is a tremendous vulnerability through social media like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, texting and other forms of instant communication.

There have been many other high profile cases such as Megan Meier in Missouri, Rebecca Sedwick in Florida, Rehtaeh Parsons in Nova Scotia, Devon Brown in Georgia – and the list could go on.

These are cases where the judicial system often becomes aware of the bullying too late to intervene. Increasingly, schools, social workers and police are becoming aware of the cost of bullying to the victims.  They are trying to reduce the frequency and intensity of the activity,

Some new information from the United Kingdom adds further urgency to society’s efforts. Dr. Ryu Takizawa is the lead author of a paper just published in the American Journal of Psychiatry. The study includes data on over 7700 children whose parents provided details on the bullying their children experienced during the ages 7 – 11. These children have been followed for many years with the current data seeing them through to age 50.

The research concludes that those who were bullied in childhood had poorer physical and psychological health as they went through life. They also experienced greater rates of mental health concerns such as depression, anxiety and suicidality. The bullying also affected educational attainment and employment. They also tended to have less success in relationships and overall, they felt a poorer quality of life over the long term.

This data, along with the ever increasing public awareness of severe bullying and suicide, should cause us to reflect that this issue is a major public health concern. People suffer both in the immediate term but also over the course of their life. The conversation on bullying must change from one where we might see it as an inevitable part of life experience to a harmful behavior that requires intervention.

Using Twitter for Advocacy

Throughout history, advocacy has been used a strategy to help create awareness for an idea or cause, identify allies and partners, build coalitions, as well as influence shifts in attitudes and/or public perceptions. History has also taught us that major shifts resulting in the empowerment of an oppressed group occurred because of advocacy and not because the dominate group relinquished some of their power voluntarily for the betterment of society. Advocacy means having difficult conversations, taking a stance against the majority, going against long-held traditions, and challenging widely accepted beliefs.

ADVOCACY highlighted in greenIt’s not uncommon for someone in the majority or unaffected group to label someone advocating on behalf of a minority group as being “Radical” or not being validated by the majority of people. If this is the standard for assessing the existence of a problem, slavery would still be legal, LGBTQ Americans would still be in the closet, women would not have a voice, and Dreamers wouldn’t have the right to dream.

The purpose of advocacy is to speak up on behalf of those who are not being heard, falling through the cracks, and/or trapped within the margins as a result of policies and legislation with intended or unintended consequences.

If you can only engage in conversation or interact with people accepted by the majority, how does this affect your ability to advocate on behalf of those without representation? If someone raises an issue that does not align with the majority, why not investigate, identify the affected, and talk to them in order to draw your own conclusions? Advocacy requires a thick skin and the willingness to stand on your beliefs even when it’s not popular, and this is applicable whether your are championing someone else or yourself.

For week 4 of the Evidence based twitter chats, I wanted to explore engaging in advocacy on twitter. Dr. Kristie Holmes, a Congressional Candidate in the State of California, participated as a guest in the wake of the Supreme Court decision McCutcheon vs Federal Election Committee.

Methodology

I used the live twitter chat format to encourage participants to use the #McCutcheon hashtag which is also being used by various advocacy groups to mount protest in favor or against the decision. By engaging in the Social Work Helper tweetchat using the #swhelper hashtag, I wanted to show how using a second hashtag in tweets could do two things. (1) Influence discussion of tweeters monitoring the #McCutcheon hashtag (2) Create a presence on the #McCutcheon hashtag by a specific group which in this case was social workers. You can view the full archive of the live chat using this link: http://sfy.co/jg2Y

Best Tweets of the Week

Challenges, Barriers, and Limitations

From comments and feedback that I have received, social workers and students may feel condemned or pressured to not engage in debate whether its politics related or others areas if not widely accepted by the mainstream profession. Also, when using the twitter chat format with a research focus as I have, problem identification and hypothesis is a necessary component. However, a six week format on different topics for the purpose of research can diminish being solution focused when the nature of research is investigative.

TweetChat

Today, April 13th at 3PM EST using the hashtag #SWHelper, I want to do an assessment of the past four weeks to see what adjustments can be made to improve the last two topics of the twitter study. Next Sunday, April 20th is Easter, and we will not have a tweetchat on that date in observance of the holiday. However, we will resume on April 27th and May 4th for the last two topics of the Evidence Based Twitter Study.

The Role of Marijuana in The Baby Boomer’s Revolution

Baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964, lived in an era where experimentation with drug use was encouraged. The children of the 1960s who rocked out to the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin, and The Who, stood up for what they believed in and protested the Vietnam War, and joined the Summer of Love in Haight-Ashbury were part of the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Now, the 1960s “wild child” has aged, and this age cohort is part of a new revolution—the baby boomer’s revolution.

marijuana-1The baby boomer’s revolution refuses to become “elderly”; they refuse to be frail, isolated, or lonely.  They refuse to have someone tell them they must grow old. Their ways are not changing, and they are living out their life as they always have…with continued drug use.

The baby boomers lived during a time in United States history when popular culture accepted substance use. The popular culture of the 1960s -1970s has resulted in the majority of this age group having been exposed to substances at rates unlike any other age group. Marijuana use has increased among baby boomers over the past decade. From 2002 to 2012, marijuana use increased from 4.3% to 8% among boomers aged 50-54, 1.6% to 7.4% among boomers aged 55-59, and from 2.4% to 4.4% among individuals aged 60-64.

The legalization of marijuana supports the baby boomer’s revolution. We are beginning to see how this group is redefining what it means to be old, but what will the new elderly look like?

Research indicates that 62% of all adults over the age of 65 have several chronic conditions, and in fact, 23% of Medicare recipients have five or more chronic conditions. These chronic conditions, combined with substance use may complicate treatment or result in poor treatment outcomes.

The National Association of Social Workers states that “social workers’ primary responsibility is to promote the well­being of clients. In general, clients’ interests are primary.” As social workers, where do we stand on this issue? Do we embrace the baby boomer’s revolution? Do we embrace aging with choice, dignity, self-determination and subsequently, substance use? Or do we return to the status quo?

For more posts like this, follow me on Twitter @karenwhiteman

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