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 online identity in a manner which brings humanity and personality to their profession and builds trust and confidence in their networks
- The sociable professional only give advice where it is asked for (and where it doesn’t compromise their professional code of conduct) and avoids assuming authority on the basis of their professional or institutional position
- The sociable professional participates in online social networks to extend and develop as a professional and a person – they learn from others and share learning in return, they give more than they take.
Eight characteristics of the sociable organisation
- The sociable organisation appreciates how the Internet and online social networks are increasingly blended into the lives of people who work for them and access their services
- The sociable organisation recognises the value of online social networks, removes barriers and constraints, and engenders a permissive approach to their use
- The sociable organisation provides simple, light-touch frameworks that help professionals stay safe online
- The sociable organisation recognises that online social networks are a means for professionals to develop their learning and deepen relationships and trust with people accessing services and their publics
- The sociable organisation provides support for its employees to develop the confidence and skills to engage with online social networks both in their professional development and in their caring role
- The sociable organisation is an ally to campaigns led by people to reduce mental health stigma and discrimination
- The sociable organisation participates in online social networks to learn, to share and to give – a facilitative and participatory approach, they give more than they take
- The sociable organisation recognises that participating in online social networks is a way to increase their accountability and transparency to their publics.
Thank you to all of you who have supported me in this PhD endeavour to date and thank you in advance for any thoughts you share on these draft characteristics 🙂