Royal Pharmaceutical Society

Social Media - let's make it a force for good

by Neal Patel

Social media use is always under scrutiny.

Whether it’s the amount of screen time children should have or whether vloggers should be encouraging gambling, the public’s mood seems to be in favour of more regulation, accountability and transparency.

We are fast approaching the 2020 RPS elections! We want everyone to enjoy the experience of being part of the elections, whether as a candidate or as voter, so we will do our best to encourage friendly and professional discussion.

We’ll be encouraging members standing for election to campaign via social media, online forums and blogs. We know this is a great way to reach and engage with voters. If you’re standing for election this year, we will send you specific guidance to help.

The best advice I’ve ever received about testing whether something is suitable to be shared on social media or not is: “If you wouldn’t say it in the ‘real world’, don’t say it in the ‘digital world’.

We love a robust but polite debate.

I know the vast majority of pharmacists use social media in a respectful, if sometimes playful, way.

However, for a tiny minority, emotions can run high.

We want to remind everyone that laws around defamation, discrimination, libel and slander apply on Twitter as they do in your local paper.

The RPS can’t police the internet. Ultimately, we are all responsible for what we say. Pharmacists, whether they are part of the RPS or not, have, in my view, a responsibility to make sure they act as role models for those who aspire to be part of the profession.

So here we are – our advice on how pharmacists should approach social media, with particular reference to the upcoming elections:

  • You have the right to speak freely and express your views but always think carefully about everything you say, Remember you are personally accountable for everything you post on social media, anonymity is not guaranteed.
  • Put yourself in your audience’s shoes, think about the impact of what you say, on others, before publishing. The debate is getting heated? Pause and think before hitting reply.
  • Don’t get drawn into slanging matches or trolling exchanges. Remain polite and considerate, take the moral high ground, even if others have been rude or unpleasant.
  • Don’t attack other people’s views. Repeatedly tagging others in posts can feel like cyber bullying to individuals who are targeted.

I know some pharmacists post under fake names or use anonymous accounts. However, everyone can see what you post. Your posts will be visible for anyone to read including patients, the public, your colleagues and employers. If you wouldn’t say it in a crowded room of peers – don’t post it online.

Social media may sometime feel relentless. Unplugging is something I do regularly, don’t feel you always have to be online.

I recognise this isn’t the most upbeat blog I’ve written, but I am responding to what I hear. People want the RPS to be clear about its views on social media use. On that, we should also recognise that social media has been a force for good for the profession. My heart sings when I see the responses from pharmacists to the inspirational people we have been speaking to through our #wearepharmacy campaign. If you need a reminder of why pharmacy is great – go check it out over on Facebook or Instagram, it’s a fabulous ‘bad day pick me up.’

The 2020 election nominations open on March 13! Please stand, get involved, debate!

For more guidance on social media please visit our website or the GPhC.

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