Social media, as well as other digital technologies, have changed the interaction between social workers and service receivers. Through social media sites, practitioners find multiple opportunities to participate and collaborate with users. Although there are various ethical issues related to online training pertaining to privacy, dual relationships and crossing boundaries, there is indeed a lack of clarity on ways to deal with success.
Generally, the internet and social media have a significant impact on social work. It facilitates people from various parts of the world to communicate and easily access information. On the contrary, social media also has introduced problems such as false news and online bullying that can have devastating consequences. But also how really has the world of social work is influenced by what might be the most important innovation of the 21st century? Here is a glimpse at the ways in which social media positively and negatively affects the domain.
Social networking has greatly impacted the quality and means of interaction amongst social workers and their respective clients. Social media sites like those of Facebook and WhatsApp allow social workers to get hold of clients quicker, cheaper and instantly without actually blowing money on commuting. One will be just spending the fundraised money on an efficient and reliable internet connection (see cox internet prices to have an idea) and he/she’ll be sorted for good. In fact, many social workers have individual social media accounts where prospective clients can reach them without having to break a sweat and schedule online appointments instantly.
Attracting clients easily:
As previously mentioned, social workers are now using social media pages and constantly sharing content, by doing this they are now attracting a greater number of clients. Figuratively speaking, social workers who like to build and broaden their digital presence, use the potential of videography and imagery to improve interaction. There are several resources available at their disposal they can seek help from. For even their own part, potential clients can simply look for available social workers and receive additional services online including spiritual therapy, psychotherapy and anxiety counselling without having to reveal their identifications.
Taking Social Work to a Global Scale:
Some time ago, due to restrained resources, social work was constricted to the neighbouring communities and regions only. One could not imagine taking a service far and beyond without having hefty funds at hand. However, now social networking sites and availability of high-speed internet has made the feat, a piece of cake. Social platforms such as Skype, Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger and many others. This has played a significant role in bringing international expertise home as well as offer services beyond borders. A social worker sitting in America can now offer services in various parts of Africa or south-east Asia without having to travel millions of miles and spending a hefty amount from the fund.
Just like in any kind of business dealings, maintaining the business/client distance and drawing the line of professionalism is equally important in conducting social work via social media. For instance, being ‘friends’ on Facebook might lead to more casual conduct in interactions. This leaves the room for consensual or un-needed flirting which might lead to unprofessional demeanour from on both party’s end. This kind of behavioural possibilities paves the way to situations such as conflicts of interest. Hence, this dilemma must be addressed with stricter policies and regulations to strike off a certain behaviour from these interactions.
Social workers have always relied on confidential client information while designing therapy interventions customized for each of them. With or without social media, therapists or counsellors may be drawn to spy on clients and their social media pages in an attempt to fish for information. This leads to an ethical as well as a legal situation.
There could be times when clients may start adding social workers on social media platforms and attempt to create a more personal bond with them by chatting them up and use the information or pictures for unprofessional pursuits.
Social work remains a largely unfettered domain. Where the growing social media usage has made the situation even more complicated. To name one, it might be difficult for governing bodies to regulate social workers operating online with no real business address or a physical office, to begin with. This has made the situation more difficult due to the lack of foolproof paperwork against social media misconduct. Work is being done but there’s a long way to go.
Social work itself has enough challenges to deal with, and social networking has become one of them, despite it being a massive opportunity. As regulatory/governing agencies find means to manage social work online, public and social workers alike need to look for themselves and consider ways of protecting their privacy.