APA Recognizes the Importance of Social Media

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The presenters explain how psychiatrists can benefit from blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and Wikis.

In the presentation “How to Blog, Tweet, Friend, Wiki, and Not Get Addicted: 21st Century Internet Technologies for Beginners,” presentersRobert Hsiung, MD,Jerald Block, MD (look for a interview with Dr. Block in MDNG: Psychiatry Edition and soon-to-come on HCPLive.com based on his use of technology as a physician serving for the Army in the Middle East), and Steven Daviss, MD (of HIT Shrink popularity), all representing the American Association for Technology in Psychiatry, sought out to define these social networking technologies; describe blogs, social networks, wikis, and virtual worlds; explain how to start a blog and find other popular blogs, as well as podcasts, that focus on psychiatry and psychiatry-related topics; review how to create both Twitter and Facebook profiles and get connected with colleagues and others using these services; explain how to edit Wikipedia entries; discuss how to approach the topic of virtual worlds with patients; describe what it is that leads people toward computer gaming; and explain how to identify pathological computer use.

The interactive course, which invited attendees to use their laptops, began with a simple, yet impactful, statement: “There’s more to the Internet than Google.” Covering both the pros and cons of social media, the team explored the above-mentioned topics and more. The technical aspects of creating blogs and podcasts was reviewed, with the presenters showing participants how to start one, submit any podcasts they might create to iTunes, and how and why to tweet out their latest posts to maximize traffic to the blog.

With social networking covered at length in the news, practiced by many psychiatrist, and the subject of research, the presenters felt it necessary to define it, review its evolution, and explore MySpace, LinkedIn, and Facebook. In regards to Facebook specifically, participants were shown how to create a profile, choose security settings, “friend” others, upload photos, join groups, and install applications. The ways in which social networking tools like Facebook and MySpace can be detrimental—providing too much personal information that colleagues and patients could see, becoming too relaxed in online conversations with the like—were also reviewed.

The topic of “E professionalism” was next discussed, with the presenters recommending a policy for friending others through social networking services.

After discussing wikis and demonstrating how to contribute to Wikipedia, the topic moved to computer gaming. “Nice computer games are sold every second in the United States,” said Dr. Block. “What are we to think? There has been a death of research exploring this new subject; one which is critically important but unfamiliar to many physicians.” That said, the presenters introduced participants to the motivations and drives behind what attracts people to computer gaming and virtual reality, using video clips and slide to demonstrate what makes virtual worlds so alluring. Both normal and pathological computer use and online sexuality were also reviewed.

With a knowledge of what Generation Y is up to online, the potential risks and benefits of these technologies, and safeguards that physicians, and their patients, can take, the presenters hope that attendees can take advantage of all that social media has to offer without getting trapped in any ethical or legal predicaments.

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