From the CEO

Facebook, MySpace, LinkedIn, Twitter. YouTube, Vimeo, Ning, wikis. A few short years ago, these words were Greek to many of us, if they even existed. Today, they are part of the lingua franca of the Web and have insinuated their way into our lives and become essential to businesses, including APA.

Social media present our association with extraordinary communications potential — the ability to reach vast numbers of people inexpensively to promote our discipline, foster intellectual debate and increase public understanding of psychology. These outlets also present possible pitfalls, such as the chance that a negative, defamatory or inaccurate piece of information “goes viral,” spreading at lightning speed across the Internet. And these outlets require thoughtful attention in order to succeed; it is not a matter of “if you build it, they will come.” They might come once, but they won’t be back if you aren’t engaging, interesting, informative and relevant.

For these reasons, APA has approached social media deliberately and strategically. We have developed a social media policy, which details acceptable and unacceptable practices for these forums. It also sets rules intended to protect our status as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit.

Even as we were developing our policies and strategies, our Office of Publications and Databases was venturing into this brave new world, leading the way with APA PsycNET and PsycINFO channels on YouTube, podcasts of PsycEXTRA materials posted on iTunes.com, and blogs from PsycCRITIQUES and APA Style — to list just a few of its efforts. Our Membership Development Department has used Twitter since 2009 to promote the convention, and those of you who came to San Diego this year were able to download your schedule to your smartphone and follow the meeting “buzz.” The Practice Directorate’s Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program is also on Facebook and has a popular blog.

More recently, APA set up a rapidly growing Facebook fan page, with more than 6,200 followers as I write this. gradPSYCH magazine and the American Psychological Association of Graduate Students have several thousand followers on their Facebook pages.

That is a prime reason why APA needs to be in these spaces. As we work to attract more students and early career psychologists as members, we need to meet them on their turf — and, increasingly, their turf is online and interactive.

As psychologists, many of us are concerned about whether and how to participate in social media — and rightly so. There are ethical questions around practitioners’ and academicians’ “friending” patients and students (See “The Internet’s ethical challenges,” July/August Monitor.) Protecting our privacy is another worry in a society where everyone’s privacy is rapidly eroding. Because of those and other related issues, APA is working on developing closed social networks — online places where our members can safely and privately raise professional concerns and share ideas, documents, best practices and more. One of those domains is PsycLINK, the Practice Wiki, which is being pilot-tested right now through APA President Carol D. Goodheart’s Presidential Task Force on Advancing Practice. We hope that PsycLINK will become not just a repository of useful information for practitioners but a place where users can tap each others’ experience and expertise, helping to solve professional problems and, in the process, becoming more skilled. Another social media project under way is a staff-driven effort to create a closed social network for our divisions, which we hope to demonstrate early next year.

These are exciting innovations, and I have no doubt there will be more to come. Our commitment to you is we will keep abreast of the trends and move ahead in this arena judiciously, with an eye toward improving member services, disseminating information, and promoting the science and practice of psychology.