The title of this blog is ‘Connecting Social Care and Social Media’ and this post by the excellent Mental Health Cop reminded me of the importance of the very first word, ‘connecting’.
What is it that needs to be connected or more importantly who is it that needs to be connected? This, for me, is one of the key factors in my continued use of social media outlets.
What is the appeal of the social over the mainstream? It’s the connections that we make. It is the connections that can have higher barriers to climb in less egalitarian settings.
As someone who has been working in social care for more years than I’d like to relate, I can see tangibly how these connections have improved my own practice and how they have the potential to change the landscape in social care (as well as other areas) for many years to come.
We are on the precipice of changing paradigms of communication and it is exciting but it’s important that we remember it that the goal is ‘connecting’ not talking.
Who do we connect with?
We begin to connect with each other. We find others who do similar things to us or who work in similar ways or who have similar politics. People in ‘our worlds’ who we can relate to and have easier conversations with and with whom we can share news stories, information or chatter.
Then we connect with people who might work in similar or related fields – the police, lawyers, academics, doctors, nurses but also those within the public sector who are linked to us whether in private organisations or the public sector – by connecting social care with social media we can explain the stories behind the headlines and the role and importance of social care in the fabric of a functioning society.
Most importantly though, we connect with those who use the services we provide. I have seen a drift towards a professionalism in social work which is all very good but it should never come at the price of building barriers between ‘professionals’ and stakeholders in the profession. I see the ability to communicate more freely and openly with those who use the services we provide to be one of areas to promote social work.
How do we connect?
‘Social Media’ is more than a blog, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn. Social Media is a means of communication which allows more accessible two-way dialogues. It includes newsgroups, forums, social bookmarking sites. Increasingly I think we are moving to a place where sifting information becomes more valuable than finding information but the key to social media is the social. We are people behind a screen and the relationships which we make are real. I’ve met a few people with whom I’ve only had contact via a screen and made real ‘off-screen’ relationships but the dichotomy between ‘online’ and ‘offline’ is becoming harder to separate and are merging.
Why do we connect?
My perhaps oversimplistic answer is to ‘make things better’. I see faults in the systems that I work in and I want to improve them. Having conversations with experts, users who access the services, carers, colleagues in other locations, in other countries can refine thinking about planning for the future.
Social Work has been in crisis for as long as I’ve been in Social Work but I try to remain hopeful. I hope we can push the profession back towards a true advocacy role and towards the promotion of social justice. We have more tools at the ready and more voices to use.
Social Work is built on relationships. We have new ways to build these relationships and new ways to open communication channels.
Looking ahead to the new year it’s important that those in this area of work or with an interest in it, use these means to promote not just the profession but much more importantly, those who rely on social care services who are yet to find voices.
We are living in interesting times and the social care sector can’t afford to be left behind because those relying on it need these voices. Not all, of course, many users are far more adept than most professionals but I work in an area where there are a lot of the quieter voices who ‘don’t want to make a fuss’. I see it as a part of my professional ethics to provide, promote and advocate for those who might not be replying to government consultations or participating in user-led groups. I also see it as a professional duty for me to take responsibility for my own learning and to understand the world and the ways it is changing better.
While ‘social media’ isn’t a panacea – perhaps ‘connecting’ is. We need more connections and this is another tool to use to connect.