Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Another Way to Waste Time



My children do it, for hours on end.
My patients talk about it, a lot.
I tried, there was nothing to do. I sat there alone. My children called me Creepy.
I thought I had it figured out that it's the domain of a very distinct demographic group, one to which I don't belong: the 14 - 30 year olds.
Then, suddenly, I realized that the old folks were doing it, too. I found Fat Doctor, there she was, with lots of friends. I found a bunch of my friends, I said H
i.
Time: it evaporates, but nothing happens. No calories get burned, nothing gets produced, consumed, washed, folded and nothing gets done. Even the connection is kind of vapid, meaningless, and somehow I can better rationalize the other silly things I do-- the hours of email, the blog, the unpublished novels. This, I don't quite get it or why I'm spending my time this way.
Facebook, of course.

Okay, I have to make this about psychiatry, so I'll ask this: is it a boundary violation to Friend your patients on Facebook? To accept when they Friend you? And how hurtful is it to refuse a patient's Friend request? Is it creepy to look at a patient's profile?

No, this hasn't come up, but one of the residents mentioned to me that they feel weird when the psychiatry faculty members want to Friend them on Facebook and it got me thinking about all the unwritten rules. My kid tells me her teachers won't be their Facebook friends until after graduation. I'm told a romance is really only valid if it's on your profile, and Facebook only allows you to post that you're in a relationship with someone if that someone also agrees to the status. And how do we even begin to deal with "unfriending?"
Is it my imagination, or was life just a little simpler way back when?
And, oh, if I haven't met you in real life, I don't want to be your Facebook friend. Please don't be insulted.

21 comments:

ClinkShrink said...

OK, I don't know what happened there but for a minute we seemed to lose our commenting ability. It's back on now.

I'm at my annual conference and will be reporting about What I Learned.

Anonymous said...

I use facebook to spy on my former shrink, and I mean that in the healthiest possible way.

We had a strong connection and a great therapeutic relationship, but I had to move away, let's say, before I was really ready to say goodbye...

So I check out his page... but I don't "friend" him or send him internet messages or pretend that we're friends.

Also, he knows I've seen his page, so apparently he doesn't feel I'm too much of a stalker? Or he hasn't said so to me, at least. It's one of those things where he has to know that in the age of the internet whatever you put out there is fair game, at least for the looky-loos (that's me).

I'm still learning to let go.

Anonymous said...

Roy fixed it, Clink. Looking forward to reading "what you learned."

I'd be worried about having to monitor everything I posted on Facebook if patients were allowed to log on as "friends."

My kids have private pages that no one can view unless invited. I'm not invited, so no telling what's on there (which is fine, actually).

But when Oldest Daughter was dating Mega Dweeb, his mother kept a running conversation with everyone he knew (because she was a "cool" mom, which I definitely am not) which is how Dear Husband discovered Oldest Daughter had tried smoking pot, because it was right out there for the world to see. So be careful what you say and who you let comment on your account.

Oh, and Oldest Daughter turned out fine and is now a pre-law major with aspirations of being a Senator some day. Unfortunately, she'll never make President because she actually inhaled.

ClinkShrink said...

Roy and I were working on it at the same time. He switched it to 'pop up' comments. Meanwhile, I saw the embedded comments setting and switched it to 'full page'. Great minds think alike. Weird.

pemdas said...

I have a Facebook page (I'm gulp 48). My profile is private. A co-worker sent me a Friend request. I ignored it because I don't want to have to censor myself. Work is work and I want to keep it that way.

My daughter is off at college. She added me as a Friend. It is easier to get in touch via FB -- she takes too darn long to return emails let allow voicemail. I never interact with her friends.

I teach high school. I have taught lessons on 'managing your internet identity'. Private profiles are a good start. But if one person can see it, it can still end up all over the internet (using screen capture tools like SnagIt!). There was a case a couple of years ago where a student teacher was fired because of photos on her FB page. The photo in question showed her at a costume party dressed as a pirate. The photo's caption said something to the effect of her being a drunken pirate (she looked like she was having fun...she wasn't falling over drunk or puking her guts out). She was holding one of the red plastic cups. Some potential employers check out FB...at the very least most will Google you.

I don't think I am being paranoid (at least that's not my Dx ;) I like to think that I am just practical.

Anonymous said...

I think you're points are really valid.

I just Googled myself and discovered some woman on a Usenet forum I frequented long ago has worked my full name into her delusions.

Apparently, I have stolen her debit card, am involved in RICO violations, have bugged her house, have removed the bugs from her house, associate with some private detective named Frank, belong to a group named Quack Watch, and have more aliases than you can shake a stick at. It would be amusing, but it's not.

I just hope any future employers have decent reality testing.

Therapy Patient said...

The pitfalls of Facebook outweigh any potential positive for me. Already email and email buddies (not to mention blogs and news) already consume way too much time. In addition, I REALLY do not want to worry about what personal information is out there about me. I have a 14 year old niece who I befriended by responding to her invitation to join so I have an inactive site. I am out of my element on her site.

Alice said...

re: NOT accepting friends on FB - if you reject someone's friendship request, it doesn't send them a big "YOU HAVE BEEN REJECTED" message or anything. It doesn't actually mention it to the person you've rejected or ignored, which makes it much easier to do!

rosysunset said...

I signed up for FB a week ago, and I am sorry it took me so long to join.

Sure, it can be misused, but I think it is a great networking tool to stay in touch with those networks of people you've moved away from.

We're a really transient society, especially for young people. I have lived in 10 different towns in 9 states in the past 15 years (boarding school, college, camp counseling, internships, grad school, year abroad etc.)....

There are a lot of people that I was truly friends with at one point in my life that I just can't keep up email/phone relationships with. I feel like FB has given me a way to casually maintain that connection on a low level, so that if our paths ever cross again we can reconnect.

I don't want to be emailing out pics of my infant son all the time to people, so it is just nice to put them up there and whoever wants to check them out can, and videos too--how else do you share videos? The grandparents always want videos, but they're just too big to email.

Anonymous said...

It's all creepy and yet people dive right in. If a patient has a profile that has such lax privacy that you can look at it, that says something about the patient. That you would go to the trouble to type in the patient's name to go looking for their profile says something about you. I understand this is all hypothetical.The patient is pretty much giving implied consent much in the way that they would be if they appeared in the centerfold of Playboy. They can't expect that nobody would look. If you happen to be a regular reader of the magazine then you will see the picture. If you ran out just to see a nude picture of your patient, well...

If you think you are the oldest one on facebook, think again. Grandparents are coming on board. The teens no longer fret so much about friend request from middle aged parents who, let's face it, inhaled back in the day, but from the grandparents! This is when privacy settings and wall permissions come in handy. Let granny be your friend but don't let her see your wall, pictures, videos. Don't let her send you a happy birthday message if you are 16 year old guy and want to be able to show up at school the next day. Granny needs to give you hugs and poopsy kisses over the phone.No offense to grannies, they are great but what are they doing on facebook?

Everyone on earth is now a facebook spy.No one needs anything like snagit to capture what is in a profile --it is much more lo tech and easier than that.

Be careful who your friends are--they will unwittingly betray you.

Why wouldn't you unfriend someone? people do it everyday in r.l.
Why would you accept a patient friend request? You know it is a boundary violation so that was just a silly question.

Karla said...

I agree that Facebook is a useful tool to keep in touch with friends and acquaintances who you know from various random settings.

I don't think it's ok to befriend patients, this could really influence the clinical interaction and that is almost never useful in helping them with their problems. It's almost like inviting them to your home - if you're ok inviting your patients to your home, showing them pictures of you hanging out with your friends, or from vacation, or so on, then you could add them on facebook too.

I usually try to keep track of the pictures my friends post of me. Some have different ideas about the image they want to convey, and I had to ask them sometimes to remove certain photos because I was uncomfortable with them. They always did, and I never had a problem with that.

On the other hand, facebook is very helpful when you want to say go for grad school somewhere and you discover that you have friends there. Or if you're looking for advice on a topic and you realize someone you know is working in the business. It saves a lot of time in that regard, and it's helped me on several occasions.

Shruti said...

By doctor's orders( for real) i can read only 3 blogs/day, one is yours ofcourse... so if i tell her i am on facebook too, she will perhaps give me more meds!

I am glad i am not on facebook.
(my husband is but stays inactive)

Shruti

Anonymous said...

Then you have friends of friends. Somehow, if you are friends with someone and their picture is tagged and posted on a third person's facebook page, you can view that person's page (or at least the photo), too.

So you might end up unwittingly seeing one of your patients naked or partying, or committing an NCAA violation on campus that you then feel like an accomplice keeping secret... just sayin'

Lola Snow said...

My parents live abroad, so facebook is an easy way of sharing quick comments, or photos etc and it's great. My brother was less than impressed though and holds me responsible for my Mothers interest in his facebook photo albums.

I think the part which rubbed the most was when she found a video clip of him doing a highly questionable dance routine with some balloons at a party. I'm not sure if it was the formation of the long balloon and the two round ones, that upset her, as much as the cast of co-performers gesticulating wildly and chanting....

Anonymous said...

what if your friend says "i wrote about you on my facebook and if you want to see what i wrote you have to make a facebook, too, and be my facebook friend." isn't that facebook blackmail? isn't that wrong? wouldn't that friend owe you a crabcake? with onion rings on the side?

Esther said...

I'm on facebook. My page is private and even if you know my name you can't find me. I made it virtually impossible for people to find me on facebook. My brother couldn't find my facebook page. I had to friend him first. I only use facebook to stay in contact with people I don't regularly call. Old college buddies and such. I don't really hang out on facebook and I hardly ever use the chat thingy. As for the applications, I never sign up for those. *cough* Spyware. I also regularly reject invitations to join groups.

Unfriending is something I have done a few times. Usually I unfriend people who I don't remember. I have an excellent memory. Chances are, if I can't remember a person then I never met that person. So, I unfriend them.

I wouldn't friend my shrink on facebook. I would think that was weird. If my shrink tried to friend me I would find a new shrink. Also, if I slipped up and did send him a friend request I would be relieved if he turned it down.

Rach said...

I'm on facebook but that's a matter of being of a much younger generation. I don't care whether my shrink's on facebook. I'm sure he knows how to use it - I'm sure one of his kids gave him a tutorial at some point, or some patient gave him a whole seminar on the ins and outs of facebook stalking or something.

Honestly - I don't care. I have so many other better things to do... That's what Facebook does - eats up time... I do use it to stay in touch with my friends on the other side of the world, and add pictures... but that's about all...

Anonymous said...

rach--if you have a grandmother--she is probably on facebook by now too. dogs are on facebook now. hamsters too.

Rach said...

Anon- my grandmother is 89 years old (spit three times) and is from "the old country" - she also believes she lives in a condom building, and I use my computer to access the "undernet"... So I don't think she'll be getting on facebook anytime soon!

michreneeg said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Doug Bremner MD said...

Facebook rules in my "book" state that you should not "friend" your patient, your doctor, your children or your parents. You can, however, friend nieces and nephews, siblings, spouses, old schoolmates, and (if you want) people you have never met but who share similar interests.

Facebook is a way for vapid narcissists (such as myself) to form weak relationships with others through the internet. In my "book" it is fine to friend people you don't know who share a similar interest, in my case health and drug news.