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Media theorist Marshall McLuhan described media as an extension of man and that each new medium or technology introduces a change to the scale or pace or pattern in human affairs (McLuhan 1994). In 100 BC paper discovery permitted recording of information and stories, the Guttenberg press invention in 1455 encouraged literacy, photography in 1814 permitted visual record keeping and the invention of Morse code in 1835, Telegraph in 1843 and the Telephone in 1876 broke the distance barrier. Film discovery in 1898 and radio in the 1920s provided forms of electronic mass media. Television in the 1950s and Web 1.0 Internet since the 1990s have become common features in people's homes throughout the world. Most recently, Web 2.0 in the 2000s introduced digital participatory media such as Twitter, YouTube, Facebook and Bebo, which have created continuous and instant access to events happening around the world.

Jones and Hayter (2013) address in their editorial the usefulness of new media for nurses and midwives and its students and direct specific attention to how on the one hand, new media offers professionals a platform for networking and a place where ideas can mingle. It has demonstrated success, specifically in YouTube, in promoting positive images of nursing (Kelly et al. 2012). On the other hand, Jones and Hayter recognise that cyberspace, the metaphorical space where consciousness is located, can be difficult for professionals and students to handle when it comes to separating the private self from the public self. Consequently, the Web 2.0 environment presents a potential area of moral hazards and poor e-professionalism. The Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) and Royal College of Nursing (2009) flag up key areas for concern in this regard such as sharing confidential information online, pursuing relationships with patients or service users, distributing sexually explicit material and using social networking sites in any way which is unlawful, posting inappropriate comments about colleagues or patients and using social networking sites to bully or intimidate colleagues.

While all these issues are important, the concern for using social networking sites to bully or intimidate colleagues is a particularly crucial one due to the scale of what it can achieve. Words and images can be used as powerful incendiary devices. People who use them as a form of passive aggressiveness when conflict arises use them as extensions of themselves as a way of circumventing personal inadequacies, lack of problem-solving and interpersonal skills and lack of courage. They understand that words and images have consequences. They know words can wound and disable, even paralyse and devastate. McLuhan (1994) predicted that media technologies would culminate in the image of a global village. McLuhan saw the global village as not one of harmonious encounters but rather abrasive communities, something more akin to tribalism where an inevitable feature is herd mentality. Walter Lippmann (1922) advised against herd mentality explaining that ‘where all think alike, no one thinks very much, p. 22’. Let us exert efforts to use technologies sensibly to ensure the profession of nursing extends itself as a thinking profession.

References

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  2. References
  • Jones C & Hayter M (2013) Editorial: social media use by nurses and midwives: ‘a recipe for disaster’ or a force for good’? Journal of Clinical Nursing 22, 14951496.
  • Kelly J, Fealy G & Watson R (2012) The Image of you: constructing nursing identities in YouTube. Journal of Advanced Nursing 68, 18041813.
  • Lippmann W (1922) Public Opinion. Greenbook Publications, Wisconsin.
  • McLuhan M (1994) Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man. MIT Press, Cambridge.
  • Nursing and Midwifery Council (2008) The Code: Standards of Conduct, Performance and Ethics for Nurses and Midwives. Nursing and Midwifery Council, London.
  • Royal College of Nursing (2009) Legal Advice on Using the Internet for RCN Members. RCN, London.