The New Social Worker Online Blog: Must I Un-Friend Facebook? Exploring the Ethics of Social Media

Image courtesy of tsevis. Some rights reserved.

There’s an interesting and provocative article in this month’s New Social Worker Magazine about the ethics and mechanics of social media use in social work practice:

The New Social Worker Online Blog: Must I Un-Friend Facebook? Exploring the Ethics of Social Media

Article summary:

The ethics article in the Summer 2011 issue of THE NEW SOCIAL WORKER addresses ethical issues related to social networking. Is it possible to be a “blank slate” therapist in the era of social media? Is it desirable or necessary for social workers to remove themselves from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites? What are the ethical implications of NOT staying up-to-date and current on these technologies, which may be a big part of clients’ lives? Is there a happy medium?

Read the article at and post your comments here. We would like to hear your thoughts.

Linda Grobman, ACSW, LSW

My response:

Stirring the big spoon here…honestly, articles such as this make me a little sad. We’ve been emailing and blogging and sharing our lives with one another using technologies for nearly 20 years, and I wish we could get to a point where we could accept and embrace technologies and their potential while being cognizant of risks involved and creating good policies around their use. Instead of integrating our whole selves into our public, professional personas, which for a lot of reasons may not be feasible for some folks, we are encouraged to build these boundaries or eschew social media entirely. It’s like blaming a hammer for a nail in the wall – the technology is not the enemy here and will always evolve to allow new ways to connect, share, and yes exploit.

So what policy makes sense for you? I enjoy being my authentic self in public because it helps me meet and connect with others who do the same, and I find these conversations and interactions provocative, enriching, and memorable. At its best it’s like touching upon actual humanity in public where others can join in. My general policy is not to share publicly anything I wouldn’t want my mother to read or to show up on say the New York Times. For those in direct practice with clients, I encourage you to create a policy that makes sense for you but I would use “end all participation in social media” as a last, probably unnecessary resort. Plenty of clinicians use social media to talk about their practice (NOT using client details or any identifying information), their philosophy around the treatment they are using, connect with other workers online to help grow their thought process, and create a policy about how to interact with current and former clients on social media. For example, I’ve been teaching for over 3 years and will not friend current students or students who may be in my courses in the future. But after class is over certainly let’s continue the conversation!

What are your thoughts? What social media policy works best for your, your professional life, and your clients?

3 Replies to “The New Social Worker Online Blog: Must I Un-Friend Facebook? Exploring the Ethics of Social Media”

  1. I’m not a social worker, but the sociologist in me sees a bit red flag with that “blank slate therapist” ideal. Is is possible to be a blank slate therapist EVER? Really? The epistemological underpinnings of this debate seem more serious than the tools. I agree with your position.


    1. Good point Jo. The qualitative researcher in me becomes very concerned very quickly and feel there is much more to be gained by working with our viewpoints and resources. Isn’t that what we help clients do? I will state that some feel more comfortable going “full ostrich” with this stuff, and I suppose that is their choice, but there are other options!


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