How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? #mindtech15

How can we keep the digital revolution social? On Wednesday 2 December mHabitat is hosting a social debate in partnership with The Mental Elf and MindTech on the eve of the latter’s Harnessing the Digital Revolution annual symposium. The title of the debate is ‘can research really tell you how to make a good mental health app?’. We’ll be using the hashtag  #mindtech15 as well as streaming the discussion live on Periscope. The debate is all about keeping the digital revolution open, social and exploratory – challenging ourselves to think critically about digital in mental health through public deliberation. We hope it will be stimulating, fun and informal. I have previously blogged about my lack of love for the traditional conference format, often characterised by experts on the podium transmitting knowledge to a largely passive audience. Not only do such events miss a trick in harnessing audience expertise within the audience but also often fail to be engaging. I’m a big advocate of participant led events, as exemplified by the People Driven Digital which a few of us organised earlier this year – we put a lot of effort into making this as sociable an event as possible. The symposium itself is a mix of presentations, debates, a rapid fire technology showcase, an exhibition and lots of opportunity for networking. You can book here – I recommend it. Theories of learning styles are contested, but if we recognise that people learn differently, then it makes sense to organise an event in ways which vary pace and style to keep people engaged.  So it’s been fabulous to collaborate with Mindtech and...
Eight characteristics of sociable professionals & organisations

Eight characteristics of sociable professionals & organisations

What are the key characteristics of professionals and organisations who understand online social networks and participate in them in ways which are welcomed by their publics? My PhD thesis has sought to understand how relationships between people accessing and providing mental health services are being disrupted in online social networks. Whilst my ethnographic research focused on the sadly departed The World of Mentalists and its ecosystem of blogs fondly referred to as the madosphere, I am finishing my final chapter with some general insights about how professionals and organisations can be sociable in online spaces. Whilst my focus is on mental health, I think these insights have application beyond the mental health sphere. Below are my (very draft) eight characteristics of sociable professionals and eight characteristics of sociable organisations. I’d be massively grateful for your comments – please feel free to question, challenge and rip them to pieces! Eight characteristics of the sociable professional The sociable professional appreciates the affordances of online social networks for people to bolster their wellbeing through seeking information and producing their own content The sociable professional understands the benefits of peer support in online social networks to engender mental wellbeing, validation, resilience and self esteem The sociable professional facilitates digital inclusion to ensure people they support do not get left behind The sociable professional supports people in their blended offline and online lives where this is welcomed – navigating the perils and the possibilities The sociable professional respects and is an ally to people living with mental health difficulties who exploit online social networks to challenge stigma and discrimination The sociable professional mediates their...
Should social care staff friend people they support on Facebook?

Should social care staff friend people they support on Facebook?

Should social care staff ever friend people they support on Facebook? According to this great paper by Peter Bates, Sam Smith and Robert Nisbet, the default view of social care staff and organisations is a resounding no. This stance is echoed in the proliferation of social media guidelines for health care practitioners that you can find curated here. The authors make a case for a more nuanced response to this question as explored through the lens of support for learning disabled people. They argue that the multi-faceted nature of people’s lives resists the reductive notion of linear personal/professional boundaries implicit within social media guidelines. I have previously blogged about the positive affordances of boundary violation between the personal and professional on online social networking sites.  The authors point to the value of digital inclusion and potential of social media for accessing information and peer support. These ideas are beautifully captured in the context of mental health in a guest post by @positivitysmile. I concur with the authors’ stance that a thoughtful approach to social media is required for health as well as social care practitioners. Use and ethics of social media are not routinely incorporated within practitioner training and in my view this should be integrated throughout the curriculum rather than either ignored or sidelined as a stand-alone session or module. As our online and offline lives become ever more intertwined, health and social care staff will benefit from a sharpened understanding of online social networking both for themselves and people they support. Facebook is not a neutral space I would like to add a few additional thoughts to those...
Digital is just a fad.

Digital is just a fad.

‘Digital is just a fad’ ‘Digital is just a distraction from the real problems facing healthcare’ ‘Digital is just another thing to learn and I  don’t have time’ These are all challenges I’ve recently heard from healthcare professionals recently who are reticent and doubtful about the value of spending time developing their understanding of social media and digital tools/services. Everyone is busy and everyone is overstretched. So why should their attention be focused here when they are so many other more pressing priorities? Their wariness is in sharp contrast to a talk on widening digital participation by Bob Gann at a recent mHealthHabitat breakfast discussion in which he shared the following three stark facts: Low health literacy is closely linked to poor outcomes and mortality Information and services are increasingly digital – digital skills are increasingly linked to health literacy Those who are least likely to be online are those who most need health and care services. If digital skills are important for people needing health and care services then they are also important for practitioners who are delivering those services. Increasingly, practitioners need to incorporate digital mediation in to their day to day work – helping people find and make sense of the best health information and digital tools online. Digital skills aren’t just technical skills – they are skills in appraising information online, they are skills in participating in online communities to maximise their beneficial effects and minimise harm; they are skills in understanding whether a mobile app is based on evidenced clinical effectiveness and deciding if you’re ok with how it uses your data; they are...
Social media & backstage performance – part I

Social media & backstage performance – part I

In his seminal sociological work The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1959) Erving Goffman employs a theatrical metaphor to shed light on everyday social interactions – we endeavour to manage the impression we give of ourselves to others through our front stage performance; our back stage performance is where we can set aside our public selves, step out of character, adjust our flaws and construct our public selves. We use any number of props to manage our front stage performance. In contemporary life, the press release is a typical institutional prop for impression management. However, online social networks are also props which enable the audience (AKA ordinary people) to question, challenge and even undermine those attempts at maintaining a coherent front stage – they demand that the curtains are pulled back and they demand access to the back stage area. But how often are institutions willing to give this sort of access? Last week saw a storm of protest on Twitter in response to a BBC News film in which the use of prosthetic masks to teach mental health nursing students was promoted. It is easy to see why the press release got picked up by mainstream media – it made a good front stage headline as can be seen in their press release: Hollywood silicone masks bring interactive nursing to life at RGU; the University got positive modest mainstream media coverage as a result. However, Twitter didn’t receive the story with quite the same uncritical enthusiasm. I won’t go into the detail here, but you can check out the Twitter hashtag #MHMasks to find out more. Firstly...

Is social media helping people talk about mental health?

This week the Guardian published an article #timetotalk: Is social media helping people talk about mental health? to coincide with Time to Talk Day run by the Time to Change campaign. #timetotalk asked us all to spend five minutes talking about mental health so we can break down stigma and increase understanding. Time to Change have really embraced social tools to spread their message, as in this short film promoting #timetotalk I was struck by the question posed by the Guardian, as it gets to the heart of one of the themes I have been considering in my PhD research over the last few years. It also caused me to reflect that back in 2011 when I began my research, I would never have imagined such a headline would make it into the mainstream media. It  is a reminder of how embedded online social networking has become in our day-to-day lives (at least for many of us) and evidence of the particular affordances of social media for people talking about difficult issues such as mental health. My online ethnographic research has primarily focused on a now defunct blog and the ecoystem of blogs that surrounded it. It’s another reminder of the fluid and impermanent nature of online social networks. During my fieldwork the conversation moved inexorably from the slower paced and asynchronous world of blogs (or madosphere as some called it at the time) towards the faster paced world of Twitter and real-time chats. What was once a space and set of practices that felt subversive and risky to many of its participants, is now increasingly bubble wrapped in professional...