For me social media is mostly about learning, sharing and making connections. The participatory and personal nature of discussion on platforms such as Twitter is the antithesis to traditional broadcast communications, and it is this subtle shift that can often be so challenging for institutions.
I’ve been wondering how to convey this change in a more meaningful way when speaking at events and conferences – the traditional lecture format not only feels more in the broadcast tradition, it also infers expert knowledge on the presenter, when in the world of social media it seems to me that we are all on a journey of discovery.
So when Sue Sibbald aka @BPDFFS and I agreed to speak about social media and mental health recovery at the recent CPA Association conference, we thought we’d try a different way of sharing our thoughts and experiences. We wanted to convey some of the essence of the discursive quality that platforms like Twitter afford, not just through what we said, but also how we said it.
We decided to ditch the Prezi and employ a conversational format – that is, a conversation that would take place in public and on the stage. Whilst we agreed the questions we would ask each other beforehand (to make sure our dialogue flowed) we deliberately didn’t share our responses so that we would be spontaneous in the moment, develop points during our discussion, and perhaps engage in a bit of banter.
In taking this approach, our plan was to illuminate the interactive and emergent nature of dialogue in social media spaces; to show how it is both personal (we both shared stories) and social; and how it is spontaneous as well as requiring give and take to work. The dynamic of patient and professional is one built on differential power but we hoped our conversation would illustrate how social media tends to flatten traditional hierarchies (whilst appreciating that this is not always the case). This intuitively felt more in keeping with, and hopefully reinforced the messages we wanted to convey, about social media. I think that we did this more effectively through a conversation than we might have achieved in singular direction broadcast lecture mode.
I don’t think it is the right approach for every presentation but I’m definitely keen to use it again and I really enjoyed collaborating with Sue – even though we’ve only met a few times I knew we would work well together because of the rapour we’ve built on Twitter.
Below are basic questions we planned as the basis for our public conversation:
Victoria to Sue: Tell me a bit about who you are, what you do and your background; Could you tell me about your experience of BPD (borderline personality disorder); How did you first come across social media?
Sue to Victoria: So tell me a bit about you your role and how you came across social media? How do you manage to tread the fine line of staying professional but appearing human? What do you see the benefits are to organisations?
Victoria to Sue & Sue to Victoria: What does recovery mean to you?
Victoria to Sue: How has social media helped you personally in living with a diagnosis of BPD? How have you been able to help others in their recovery through social media? We hear a lot about the risks and dangers of social media – what are your thoughts on this?
Sue to Victoria: What about those organisations not on social media how are they missing out and how can they help people with their recovery? How do you as an organisation make sure you include those who don’t know how to use social media? Are there any organisations which have really mastered the use of social media and are there guidelines that can be followed?
Victoria to Sue: What sort of responses have you found from healthcare professionals to social media? What has been helpful? Not helpful? How do you think healthcare professionals and NHS Trust ought to be responding to social media?Do you know of any good examples you could share?
Sue to Victoria: What are your thoughts on #chats for healthcare professionals and is it true you can use them for continuing professional development? What are your thoughts on healthcare professionals and people who use services coming together on these chats? How might this help in recovery? Do you think live tweeting from conferences is helpful?
Victoria to Sue: Tell us a bit about #BPDChat and how that came about. What other chats are there? What do they bring from a recovery point of view? Are there are any drawbacks/risks? Do you think healthcare professionals should recommend them to people they support?
Sue to Victoria & Victoria to Sue: What’s one key thing you’d like this audience to take away from our conversation today in relation to social media and recovery?