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How to Maintain a Professional Image in the Social Media Age

How to Maintain a Professional Image in the Social Media Age | Healthcare Career Resources Blog
dolgachov/123RF.com

“Oh, no!” I said, with a concerned look on my face.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

“A nurse I work with just friended me on Facebook. What do I do?”

The worst fear I had as a first year resident was being followed on social media by co-workers who weren’t actual friends. Honestly, it feels like an invasion of my privacy. Sure, I’m friendly with everyone I work with, even adding personal anecdotes to conversations when it’s appropriate. There’s just something weird about having co-workers know my personal information.

I remember a day I walked onto a unit, and a social worker said to me, “Did you enjoy the gem and mineral show?” I was confused because I didn’t remember seeing her there. “Oh sorry, I saw on Facebook that you went!”

I’ve always made it a point not to share things on Facebook that would jeopardize my career, but this was different. Although my friends and family care about my views on politics, my love for my pets, and my obsession with hair and makeup, knowing these things could make coworkers too comfortable with me, making it more difficult to assert authority when needed. After two or 3 awkward experiences where coworkers brought up details of my personal life that they learned online, I decided it was time to make some changes to maintain a comfortable separation between my work life and private life on social media. Here are some tips to do the same:

Figure out your online presence

Have you ever Googled yourself? The first time I searched my name online was when I was applying to medical school. I was curious what other people would be able to find out about me with a few clicks. Among other things, I found the blog I kept in high school. Reading through my posts, I laughed and cringed at the distraught letters I wrote to no one, in which I would detail how “awful” my social life was. I found my MySpace account, with all my angled duck face pictures, and I giggled thinking about how difficult it was for me to decide on my Top 8 friends back then. Reminiscing was fun, but I didn’t want “high school Nora” to limit the employment opportunities for “adult Nora.”

Edit your accounts

Now that you’ve driven down memory lane, it’s time to decide what makes the cut. I deleted my MySpace account, along with some others that I felt were now irrelevant. I changed my passwords and privacy setting for the accounts that remained. I took a fine-toothed comb through my listed associates. How did I know these people? Did they need to know this type of information about me? I’ll let you in on a secret: only your close friends and family will notice if you remove them from your online social circles, and if anyone else notices, so what? What can anyone really do about it if you decide that you don’t want him or her being a part of your online social circle? No one wants to seem petty in the work place, and nothing screams “I’m immature!” more than confronting someone who deleted you on social media.

Choose new associates wisely

After editing my various accounts to my liking, I felt an enormous sense of relief. In order to maintain this new found, healthy online experience, I maintain this new level of scrutiny, and it’s surprisingly easy. Again, no one has approached me saying, “Why didn’t you accept my friend request?” or “I saw that you deleted me on Facebook.” If they do in the future, I’ll be honest and tell them it makes me uncomfortable.

Live your life!

In the end, you’re still a human being. Some people are extremely private and don’t share anything on the Internet. Some, like me, value transparency. Be yourself responsibly.

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About Nora Ekeanya D.O.

Dr. Nora Ekeanya is currently a psychiatry resident at UMKC SOM in Kansas City, MO. Hailing from Jacksonville, FL, she received her Bachelor of Science in Biology from the University of Florida and a degree in Osteopathic Medicine from Edward Via College of Osteopathic Medicine- Virginia Campus. She has a personal interest in trauma-informed care, particularly racially-based trauma.