Challenges and supporting factors to running a community Facebook page
Running the community Facebook page ‘Educational Psychology Today ‘ has been hugely rewarding as we have gathered over 4000 followers. This is leading to a more visible profession but there have been some challenges to overcome.
One cold and dreary Sunday last autumn…
…I had a flash of inspiration. I looked at popular social media sites and saw there wasn’t a community page for Educational Psychology so decided to set one up.
You see, a few things had happened recently that made me feel, I’ll admit, a bit frustrated with our profession. I had attended a conference aimed at Clinical Psychologists, where a prolific Psychologist spoke about how they needed to be more visible in the media. Essentially, the point was that for every qualified Psychologist unwilling to contribute Psychology to popular media, someone who had perhaps only completed a short course in Psychology would be willing to. This meant that the profession was being diluted and Psychology was losing its evidence-based ethos. Whilst she was talking to the Clinical Psychologists, I felt the same about Educational Psychologists (EPs).
Furthermore, a document was launched about best practice in Psychology and Mental Health services and very little mention was given to EPs. These events, coupled with a rise in Private Educational Psychologists setting up Facebook pages, inspired me to get Educational Psychology more visible to people. I invited a few colleagues in a range of authorities to be involved, and have invited more as time has gone on, to ensure there is a broad and balanced content.
Building a social community
Over the last year of running the page, we’ve come to learn that there are many positives to running this page, and a few restraints. We are proud that the page enhances the visibility of our small profession and that it might help more people understand what our role is. As we all know, this is often misunderstood and we hope our page is used by confused parents, school staff, and even students, who might be involved with an EP.
The potential reach of social media forums is huge and we have followers from all over the globe – what a unique way of forging a community of people interested in our profession! The word ‘community’ sums up the biggest positive of all – this is a place where people ask questions, from advice for their career path to help with meeting the needs of children.
Challenges to EPs of engaging with social media
Despite these incredible positives, we have learnt a lot from running Educational Psychology Today, and some of these have brought significant challenges.
A common theme for EPs is that there is so much to do and not enough time to do it in – as all of the page contributors are working EPs or Trainee EPs, the time restraints to post material and reply to messages is difficult to manage. This means it’s much easier to share content from elsewhere but it can be hard to generate new material. We have a blog page set up which is linked to the page and allows us to write longer pieces, however we have not found time to use it as yet.
If we find something interesting and want to share it but disagree with a particular sentence in it, we can be hesitant to post it as it opens us up to criticism, which people are very quick to do.
The biggest challenge we regularly negotiate is how to handle situations when people turn to us for advice. We often get messages about one off cases and it is not possible, or ethical, to give professional advice. We find this hard because it is our nature to want to help and being unable to offer support to a parent who has reached out to us, or a member of school staff who is trying their hardest, is upsetting. We are also mindful that some our posts may be construed as advice, when in fact it is merely to raise awareness, so we always try to word our posts cautiously.
Undoubtedly this presents a huge challenge when it relates to anything political, which we try desperately hard to avoid, as so much of current politics significantly impacts on our profession and our individual views.
A more visible profession
Overall, we are immensely proud of what we have achieved from running Educational Psychology Today. I remember how excited we were to get 100 followers, then 1000, and to now have over 4000 feels like an incredible achievement. We find it a pleasure to run and love reading the comments and messages that we get.
However, I firmly believe that we still have a huge way to go as a profession to represent ourselves and our skills well enough in the media. For example, I would love to see EPs on shows like ‘The Secret Life of 4 Year olds’ – surely our level of training and the fact that we do observations such as that every single day would make us a leading expert on children’s play and development? Also, there are very few EPs that have made the top 100 most prolific Psychologists on Twitter.
I hope to see more and more EPs represented in the media because our profession is a hugely important one and shouldn’t be misunderstood and unheard of as much as it is.