Now, this isn't the first recommendation I've received to join Facebook, and I admit there are times that I've come close to setting up an account. But I think the biggest reason I haven't joined is that I don't necessarily want to be connected to the people I work with. I know that as soon as I join they'll find me and ask to be friends and then feelings may get hurt when I say no. Don't get me wrong: I like the people I work with and consider them to be friends. But I just don't think it's a good idea for a veterinarian to be Facebook friends with staff members.
I work at a busy practice—entire days can go by with no time for chitchat or water cooler talk. But I've seen glimpses of feuds and controversies that occurred among staff—and they took place almost entirely on Facebook. Some are work-related and some are personal (we all know where religious and political discussions lead), but I have a problem with these conflicts spilling into the real world—our workplace. Though I'm no one's superior as a veterinarian, there's a certain amount of professionalism that must be maintained among the staff. To maintain that level, I think staying out of the fray of Facebook fallouts and being immune to what's going on in that "other world" is a good way to go.
The lost art of communication
My grandmother used to lament about my whole generation and the lost art of writing a handwritten letter. And although I'm barely older than the next generation, I'm terribly concerned about the lack of social interaction that occurs today. People can carry on an entire relationship over a computer, be asked out or dumped without having to say a word, and get jobs or highly regarded professional admittance (are you listening, veterinary schools?) without ever meeting face to face. In time, I'm sure we'll discover the ramifications—if there are any—to these modern changes in communication.
I think Facebook is a great media to keep in touch with friends across a continent—or even an ocean. But do we really need Facebook to keep in touch with someone we see at work every day? If I have something funny to share or want to tell someone what I did last night, I'm going to tell it to her face when I see her. I may not be following my grandmother's advice and keeping the handwritten letter alive, but I'll do my best to defend the art of a face-to-face conversation.
Establishing personal boundaries
I believe I'm open and honest with the staff I work with, but there are certain things about me and my past that I don't think the staff should be aware of. I could foresee an old friend posting about a Mardi Gras party or that trip to Cancun that would be fun to share with those of us who were there, but not with my staff.
To complicate matters, we have loyal clients who are friends with many of the staff through our hospital Facebook account. And I want clients to walk into the hospital feeling confident I can treat pyelonephritis, not that I was able to drink a gallon of milk in one hour and not vomit. If I were on Facebook, I wouldn't use the medium to post what color shoes my daughter picked out that day, but I might feel the need to add a comment about a celebrity's latest DUI arrest or some observation about the latest political hot topic. My musings are for old friends—not current veterinary staff or clients.
Ultimately, I'm still up in the air about whether to jump into social media. The fact is, life's busy and as Betty White summed up, "It sounds like a complete waste of time." But if I eventually feel compelled to join, I think I'll walk into the hospital the next day and tell everyone face to face that I joined. However, I'll also let them know not to attempt to "friend" me due to my policy of not being Facebook friends with staff. But down the road, once we aren't working together, we'll have a good communication tool at our disposal to keep in touch.
Dr. Andrew Rollo is an associate at Madison Veterinary Hospital in Michigan. He regularly blogs as warollo on the
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