Personal vesus professional social media, where’s the line for you?

Earlier this week @ASHPOfficial tweeted “Where should pharmacists draw the line at social networking? Protect your professional reputation and get tips for safety and privacy in the Summer issue of ASHP InterSections.”  The tweet included a link that took me to Facebook where I found another link to an article in ASHP Intersections Summer 2010 about pharmacy and social media; nothing unusual about that. I’ve read the article before and it contains some pretty good information. With that said, I did find it odd that ASHP was pointing pharmacists toward Facebook to retrieve professional information. It got me thinking about Facebook and where the professional line-in-the-sand between professional and personal social media should be drawn for pharmacists.

Facebook is one of those social media sites that I’ve reserved for light hearted interaction with friends and family. I talk about what I’m up to, share some photos, comment on things here and there, but generally check my professional life at the door. I certainly don’t put anything on Facebook that is inappropriate, but I like keeping some separation between my personal and professional life.

So, do large companies or professional organizations like ASHP belong on Facebook? That question poses an unusual degree of difficulty for me, but in general I don’t think they do. I’m not naïve enough to think that everything on Facebook is private. Greg Leatham says much the same thing in the ASHP Intersection article, “I caution people, especially students, who are often a little more free with what they put on their site, that it doesn’t matter where you plan to work”. You should never put anything online that you woulnd’t want your mom to see or that appears morally or ethically questionable. On occasion I will banter back and forth with my brother (@Fahrni) on Twitter, but it’s light hearted and never contains anything that could be considered inappropriate. And sometimes I’ll leave comments on Facebook giving my nieces a hard time, but I’m their uncle and that’s the kind of fun-loving relationship we have; always in jest.

Becasue I reserve Facebook for personal interactions I typically use Twitter for pharmacy or technology interests. Of course that’s not true 100% of the time, but it is a realtively accurate generalization in my case. Twitter offers both a professional and personal sounding board for me, but my thoughts are limited to 140 characters and the entire Twitter community has a different feel to it when compared to Facebook. Facebook has a more intimate feel in my opinion. I just don’t see following, friending or otherwise becoming engaged with businesses or organizations on Facebook. That doesn’t mean I don’t have colleagues as friends on Facebook. Heck, if you really want to know what I’m up to in my personal life, want to hear about what my kids are up to, or want to see photos of my family, I’d be happy to “friend you”; unless you’re creepy, then you can’t be my friend. Otherwise my Facebook page isn’t the place for you.

I chose to keep separate areas for my professional and personal social media activities. How about you? This is definitely a topic worth discussion and it is probably time to formalize social media education in the pharmacy curriculum. Otherwise we’re looking for trouble down the road. Just a thought.

For some interesting facts and figures about social media use and health care, check out the presentation below by Kevin Clauson. If you want to see where things can go wrong with Facebook go to slides 49-52.

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