Social Work… and Social Media

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Without doubt, social media has become the new public square in the modern world. Given this, business professionals learn every day of the pitfalls social media can present — especially when they do not maintain strict divisions between their professional and personal lives online (and sometimes even if they do). Social media, in turn, opens up new avenues for professionals whose job focuses on the needs of other people. Social workers, therefore, are among those who can use this powerful tool. Elliot Caleria, in SWHelper, recently tackled the topic of social work and social media.

“Social media and the Internet, in general, have had an immense effect on social work,” Caleria writes.  “It enables communication between people from different corners of the world and makes access to information fast and easy. On the flipside, social media has brought about evils like fake news and Cyber Bullying whose effects can be fatal.”

Caleria explains that social media has vastly improved communication, both among social workers and with their clients. It has sped up this communication while making it cost less; social workers using online means can monitor clients without incurring transport expense, checking on more clients in less time. Through social media, interested clients can reach out to and book appointments with social workers with a minimum of effort (and with greater privacy). At the same time, as Caleria details, social media has extended the reach of social work, making it possible for qualified professionals to reach out to clients around the world for very little expense.

There are some regulator challenges, however. “Social work remains mostly an unregulated field,” Caleria writes, “and the increasing social media usage doesn’t make it any better. On one side, regulatory bodies may find it difficult to regulate online social workers who may not have a physical office or address for that matter. This is made even worse by the fact that there is no existing regulatory framework for online social work. Clients, on the other hand, may also not be in a position to verify the registration and regulatory status of their social workers especially if they’re not from the same country.” There is a risk, Caleria adds, of unregulated social workers exposing clients to the dangers of sexual harassment, fraud, and other problems.

“Social work has a lot of challenges as it is and social media, despite being a significant opportunity, happens to be one of them,” Caleria concludes. “As government agencies find ways to regulate online social work, both the public and social workers must look out for themselves and find ways to protect their confidentiality.” The gloomy note on which the article ends would lead one to conclude that Elliot Caleria sees the “opportunity” of social media as more liability than asset. But is this the case?

What do you think? Do you use social media in your work? Do you believe it represents an untapped opportunity… or is it more potential trouble than it is worth? Do you have any social work and social media horror stories or success stories? Please share your thoughts with us here.

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