I will be the first one to admit that I am an avid Facebook user. Not a day goes by where I don’t log in and check status updates or photo uploads, or simply flit from page to page, like an overeager butterfly. While most of my friends say they don’t use Facebook nearly as much as I do, their hourly comments tell another story. And I should know, I’m commenting too.
As time passes and more people join Facebook, it becomes harder to separate what were once easily distinguishable boundaries. After my younger brother of six years joined Facebook, I found I had daily “Friend Requests” from people I once babysat. Through Facebook I found former classmates and subsequently, former teachers. When my younger brother’s friends parents started to send friend requests I realized it was time for me to exercise a little more prudence when accepting friends, along with what I chose to share on Facebook.
I can’t speak from experience but I’ve been warned that as a counselor, clients will want to become Facebook friends. While social media is not specifically mentioned in the ACA Code of Ethic, becoming friends with a current or former client on Facebook could be considered a “Nonprofessional Interaction”. The Code of Ethics states that such interactions “should be avoided, except when potentially beneficial to the client.” This begs the question, “Would befriending a former client on Facebook ever be beneficial to the client?” or, “Would rejecting a friend request from a client be potentially harmful?”
Along with the professional issues it presents, some researchers are beginning to wonder if Facebook can actually increase a person’s likelihood of developing anxiety, depression, and low self-esteem. If using Facebook creates both professional and personal problems, we must begin to wonder if there is any benefit to continuing to use Facebook.
It is safe to assume that becoming Facebook friends with clients, present or past, would rarely be appropriate. But what about counselors in private practice who chose to create a business Facebook page, as many businesses have already created? Could Facebook be the best outlet, along with other social media sites, for promoting business? Could Facebook become the next forum for counselors to discuss issues and concerns, job offers and continued education? Some of these ideas may seem far-fetched but as Facebook continues to evolve it is hard to predict its future effects on counseling and society.
Will we begin to see more people developing issues because of increased social media usage? Will Facebook become the preferred method of self-promotion for private practice counselors? Or, will another social media website come along and replace Facebook as the leading time waster of adolescents and adults alike? Only time will tell.
Hayley Wilson is a counselor-in-training at Florida Atlantic University. Her areas of interest include military service members and PTSD, substance abuse, and coffee.