Sunday, October 18, 2009

A Shrink's Guide to Facebook

I like Facebook. I'm not sure why-- maybe because I've reconnected with some people from my very distant past, maybe because I like the 'chat' function (I do like to chat...), and maybe because I enjoy the voyeur quality of knowing what my friends are doing. This morning, ClinkShrink had a run in with a goat. No, I'm not kidding, and yes, she posted on Facebook about it.

So what about psychiatrists on Facebook? Roy and I had a quick discussion about a psychiatrist's obligations in terms of transference. If you're a psychoanalyst, or a strongly psychodynamic psychotherapist where you believe that keeping your personal life secret is part of the 'blank screen' that propels the transference necessary to getting the work done, then are you obligated to keep your personal life quiet? Is wrong to have a public on-line presence? Roy thought doing that type of treatment requires some hesitance, I thought the psychiatrist has the right to his personal life and isn't obligated to quash how he presents himself to the world at large, as long as he's not in his patients' face with it.

Psychodynamic distance and transference issues aside, many psychiatrists, doctors, and teachers like to have their privacy, especially where family members are concerned, and many people like posting photos of family members on Facebook. There's also the uncontrolled factor that people write on your wall.....and what doc wants their patients reading "Hey I loved seeing you dance naked on the table after you did all those shots" get the idea.

So what's a Facebooking shrink to do? There's a few options here.
1) Use a fake name and a logo photo so random people can't find you. Your friends also can't find you, but you can find them and it leaves you in good control over who your friends are and aren't. This gives maximum privacy.
2) Take your name out of the public search function so that random people can't find you. To do this, go to Setting>privacy>search. I'm available on a public search.
3) Limit access to your profile to your friends, especially if you might have personal information or photos posted.
4) Keep it pretty simple and don't worry about any of it. After all, some things are only interesting if they are elusive. I've taken this tact on a lot of things. You want to see it: Go ahead, look.
5) Probably the most important thing is to just be aware that there are privacy settings and to be in control of what's out there and who can easily access it.
6) No matter how safe you think it is, don't do stupid things on-line. Nothing on the internet is really completely private, especially no if you're sharing it with 400 friends. Tell your kids that.

The New York Times had a recent article on safety and privacy on the internet. Click HERe to read it.