The positive side of leaving digital footprints

Being a nurse who advocates social media I often come across doubters – those people who say that nurses shouldn’t use social media on a professional basis as it will damage their reputation and that of their organisation, those who doubt that social media can do good and those who firmly believe that as nurses we should NEVER set foot in social media spaces (usually what these people say is accompanied with undertones of consequences of biblical proportions!) These social media doubters used to be many in number but over the years I have seen a decrease in their numbers … however they do seem to becoming more adamant! I listen politely and then point out the converse view, that perhaps by NOT engaging in social media we are damaging our reputations and the reputations of their organisations…. What would happen if you Googled an organisation and found nothing??? A bit weird huh? And I think that we are fast approaching a time when if we Google an individual and find nothing this will also ring some alarm bells.

It’s 2018 not 1918 … our lives are becoming increasingly integrated with our digital spaces, and everywhere we go on the old world wide web we leave a digital footprint … and this is quite often seen as a bad thing, something we should be cautious of, something we need be mindful of and perhaps even strive to eradicate. I have often shared the video below about Digital Footprints … it’s a bit dramatic and really does make you think … but it’s a bit one sided in that it explains the doom and gloom and not the bright side.

Whilst I agree to a certain extent that we should be mindful of the footprints we leave in digital spaces I wonder if perhaps we are missing a trick.  I think that we often forget that our digital footprints are in our control – they are not something that happens to us … we can craft and nurture our footprints and make them look how we want them too.  By engaging professionally in social media spaces we can use it to help us build networks, professionally develop and advance our careers as nurses.

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The first step is to see yourself how the world sees you … Google yourself! Do you like what you see? Is there anything to see? If you want to change what you see … you can ! It’s up to you.  Simple things like:

  • Use your real name in social media accounts – yes, this is contrary to what we teach our children but this is about people seeing you and creating a positive digital footprint
  • Including professional looking photos as your avatars – again contrary to what we tell our children to do but remember that this is a professional space
  • Using multiple social media – for example using Twitter and writing a blog or setting up a Facebook group and a YouTube Channel
  • Use evidence and research in your social media spaces – don’t leave evidence at the door just because it’s social media
  • Be an active participant in your online networks – jump in, join in, ask questions, talk to your peers
  • Create content – write blogs, make videos, create inforgraphics etc
  • Share the part of you that you want the world to see – remember you are in control of this
  • Feel free to question, disagree and challenge in a constructive and respectful way – it is possible to disagree and still remain professional
  • Know the NMC social media guidance and adhere to it and advocate professionalism online – be an active role model

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As nurses we do need to be cautious but we also need to be courageous, taking positive steps and crafting our digital footprints can be both empowering and advantageous for individuals, organisations and nursing.