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Facebook – should I stay or should I go … now?

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Facebook – should I stay or should I go … now? – Well, should I? And, if so, why or why not? This thought and feeling has flowed in and out for the past couple of weeks.  I realise it’s not new or unique.  I’ve read several blog posts about this, each relating the writers opinion.  The reason I’m posting is that as yet I don’t have a set opinion – I’m in the midst of formulating one.

I could go on about the time-wasting playing the various games such as Farmville, the lack of real connection it can give to others. Or is that, often, Facebook friends are only the  appearance of a relationship? You’ve no doubt read much on the above thoughts. The angle I am looking at it from is more from a professional stand point.

If you’re  a solicitor, school teacher, doctor, nurse, etc. would you become Facebook friends with your clients? With the prospective of completing my counselling diploma early in 2011 this question comes to me.  I’ve heard it said that if you’re unsure about doing something, you probably shouldn’t do it. Does that apply in this case? If I’m unsure about staying on Facebook, once I begin to see paying clients, should I just leave? If anyone wonders what the difference is between seeing clients voluntarily (as I do now) and th0se who pay, its that where I volunteer we are told to only use our first names.  So, there is much less likelihood of someone searching Facebook, finding and asking me to be their friend.  When working with clients who pay they would know my full name which would make it really easy to find me on Facebook and Twitter.

Does it matter? Discussed this briefly in a break at the diploma this week. It was said that if a client requests to be your Facebook friend and you ignore the request, they may feel rejected, possibly leading to all sorts of complications, especially if you still have a counsellor/client relationship. I used the word “still” in the previous sentence, but once you have that relationship surely it will always be there?

The BACP Ethical Guidelines state: Dual relationships arise when the practitioner has two or more kinds of relationship concurrently with a client, for example client and trainee, acquaintance and client, colleague and supervisee.  The existence of a dual relationship with a client is seldom neutral and can have a powerful beneficial or detrimental impact that may not always be easily foreseeable. For these reasons practitioners are required to consider the implications of entering into dual relationships with clients, to avoid entering into relationships that are likely to be detrimental to clients, and to be readily accountable to clients and colleagues for any dual relationships that occur (bottom of page 5).

My reading of the above is that having a personal friendship with a client would be a dual relationship, thus being inappropriate.  That being the case likewise being Facebook friends is not right.

The question, then, is do I leave Facebook, so a client can never ask to be my friend, avoiding any risk of their rejection? Or, as my wife suggested, when contracting with a client on their first session, explain that I’m on various social networking sites but that due to  the BACP Ethical standard I adhere to I am unable to accept any friend requests?

Facebook – should I stay or should I go … now?

Or are there other options?

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2 responses to “Facebook – should I stay or should I go … now?

  1. Toby 23 September, 2010 at 19:06

    Hi Neil.

    If you want my opinion I personally wouldn’t mention it in the contract. You could be there all day contracting if you start down that route as there are just so many things you could mention.

    Also, I wouldn’t close my FB account. I’ve wondered about this stuff myself. As I work with young people, social networking is probably even closer to them than it is to me, and I use FB and Twitter basically everyday.

    I think there are several options you could take:

    1. Deactivate your account and not use FB again. But that is a bit of a sacrifice to make for something which might not be a problem.
    2. Deactivate your current account and open another profile in a slightly different name (using a nickname your friends know you as or something), so that clients can’t track you down.
    3. Ignore any friend requests from clients and then discuss it with them next time you see them.
    4. Setup a “counselling” account which has no personal details included, and which you only use for clients.

    Since I started on the diploma, I’ve been mulling over how social networking sites could be used in both private practise and volunteer work. The best I’ve come up with is to use FB and Twitter to setup special counselling accounts, which I thought I could use to pass on inspirational quotes and/or links to useful info.

    However, although I think the sites could be very useful in that fashion there are a number of disadvantages and considerations, not least of which is confidentiality considerations in terms of seeing other people connected to the accounts. Also, would the clients have unreasonable expectations of what they expect to get from you via FB and Twitter? And what might be helpful for one client could be damaging for another, so it might become very complicated when you start trying to work out what you can and can’t post. And would clients expect you to react to their posts? It’s a minefield!

    But putting all that to one side, do your clients know your surname? I realised quite a while ago, that with the work I do at the moment my clients only know my first name so it’s actually unlikely that they’d be able to find me anyway, and both my FB and Twitter accounts are totally locked up so only people I allow in can see anything.

    I wonder if that has helped or made it more complicated? 🙂

    Toby

  2. Neil 27 September, 2010 at 13:03

    Hi Toby – appreciate you commenting. Some more windows to look at and through!! I’m wondering whether to ask for some time where we can all add to a discussion on this during course time? Though that may just create confusion with all the various voices 🙂

    On a personal note, my clients as yet don’t know my last name, as at the agency we only give our first names. So, currently this is not an issue. I’m looking forward to when I start seeing private clients. They will then know my surname and thus will find me on a social network 🙂 If they did I’m not sure I’d mind? But, as you say they then might get to know other clients of mine. But, is that a bad thing? I guess social networking is a blurring of the boundaries and maybe need to be done on an individual client basis? Would we meet up with a client to socialise for an evening? Probably not.

    Just thinking out loud here.

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