One of the greatest things about social media, or the internet in general, is there is so much information at your fingertips. The question is how much information is too much information? Or what type of info should your health organization be putting out there? This is where ethics comes in. Ethics are the moral principles that govern a person’s or group’s behavior.
Personal Ethical Considerations
People not only expect healthcare organizations to act ethically, but also healthcare employees. Many people in the community look at healthcare professionals as leaders and experts in the field, so it is important to also keep your personal social media accounts professional. The guidelines on what is unethical or unprofessional can be vague, but a general rule is: if you wouldn’t want your grandma or boss to see it, don’t post it.
Here are some things to keep in mind when posting on your personal account:
- Nothing is “private”. If you post something on social media it can be seen by more people than you think. Once something is on the internet, it’s out there even after you hit delete.
- Don’t post pictures of binge drinking. As a health professional, it would be best not to post pictures of you practicing an unhealthy behavior.
- Stay away from sexually suggestive photos. You want people to take you seriously in your field. Imagine if you saw a suggestive photo of your doctor, it would be hard to take him/her as seriously after that.
- Don’t post people’s health info or stories. This is a big one. You and your organization can get in a lot of trouble for posting information about another person’s health.
- Do your research. Before sharing an article about a health topic, be sure the information is accurate. People look at you as a health expert so they are more likely to believe health information you post.
I know what some of you are thinking, “it’s my account I should be able to post what I want”. This may or may not be true but it is important to consider that people have lost their jobs over what was on social media. For example:
Justine Sacco tweeted this just before getting on a flight to Africa. She had under 500 followers but as you can see, thousands of people saw her tweet. By the time she landed, she was a trending hashtag on Twitter and was fired from her job. This insensitive tweet about a serious health issue cost her a job and caused a public relations nightmare.
Organizational Ethical Considerations
Health can be a sensitive and sometimes secretive topic. When posting on social media, it is important that your health organization takes into consideration different ethical dilemmas. Here are some tips for your health organization to follow when posting on social media:
- Get permission. When your organization is posting an inspiring or cautionary health story, be sure to get permission from the person to share their story. Some people are private about their health and may not want their info out for the world to see.
- Read it! We’ve all done it, sharing without reading. When sharing an article, make sure you have read the entire article to make sure it’s all correct and relevant.
- Research it. There are so many myths about health, especially about nutrition and fitness. Do some research before posting to make sure your organization is posting reliable health information.
- Consider different perspectives. Something you see as harmless could seem offensive to someone else.
- Avoid stigmatizing language. Avoiding stigmatizing language is especially important when talking about mental health. Using words like “crazy” or “nuts” can be offensive and downplay an real health issue.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) is a great example of an organization that avoids using stigmatizing language. The organization uses proper terms when talking about health issues and even uses the hashtag #IAmStigmaFree.
Wrapping It Up
Ethics can be a very in-depth and sometimes vague topic. What one person sees as ethical may not be seen that way in someone else’s eyes. Health is a topic that can come with more ethical dilemmas than other topics. It is important as a health professional and health organization to be mindful of ethical issues, especially on social media where information is so public. Follow my few simple tips and your organization will have no problem staying out of trouble. Best of luck!