Image, privacy, engagement and the social media savvy practitioner

By Alessia Maruca

These days, I am sure many translators and interpreters are already using social media in some capacity in our lives. For some, it means posting across online forums, linkedin and twitter every day or simply logging into facebook once every couple of months to see what old friends are up to.

Let me be clear from the outset - practitioners are entitled to private and personal lives. However, from NAATI’s perspective, the sharing nature of online social media can create issues when the personal encroaches on the professional, or where the distance between private person and certified professional becomes blurred.

As an early social media adopter, I have had my own successes and failures when trying to find the right balance between online sociability and professionalism. And I firmly believe that translators and interpreters can use social media in a positive way to showcase our profession as well as to communicate, interact and share best practices and resources.

However, all too often people jump into using social media to represent their professional lives without thinking it through first. A practitioner’s use of social media, either in a professional or personal capacity, can challenge the privacy, security and reputations of other practitioners, NAATI, ASLIA, AUSIT and the entire profession.

Every practitioner needs to understand that each core value identified in the ASLIA or AUSIT codes of ethics must be considered when making decisions about social media in their identity as a translator or interpreter. These core values are of equal weight and importance. When you sign a NAATI application form or revalidation form it means that you accept these ethical standards as set out by ASLIA or AUSIT as a condition of your accreditation or recognition.

Practically, these values and obligations mean that when using social media, every single NAATI accredited or recognised practitioner is obliged to:

  • Be responsible for what they write;
  • Respect their audience, both visible and invisible; and
  • Respect copyright and intellectual property.

Any activity which represents a failure to meet these obligations may be determined as a breach of the codes of ethics and so NAATI reserves the right to counsel and, in certain circumstances, cancel a NAATI accreditation or recognition.

Now that we have some well-defined boundaries, there are some practical steps you can take to ensure that you are doing your best to comply with your ethical obligations as a practitioner. The values that underpin the ASLIA and AUSIT codes of ethics form a solid base for you to start thinking and ask yourself a few questions, namely:

  • Should you have separate personal and professional profiles? If I use one profile, do I have enough time to separate or filter out content so it is only shown to the right people?
  • Do your social media comments or posts reflect who you are as a professional? Can these posts be taken out of context?
  • Are your photos of a nature that reflects how you want to be seen?
  • Are your privacy settings suitable? Who can see your profile?
  • Are you accepting appropriate people to be friends or connections on your profile? Are you rejecting requests from people (e.g. current or ex-clients or colleagues) that could put you in a difficult situation?
  • Do your friends or colleagues have any photos of you on their sites that you may be “tagged” in? Do these photos reflect how you want to be seen?
  • Have you web-searched your own name? Does the search result reflect how you want to be seen?

Answering these questions is important. As a translator or interpreter you are performing a public service in a position of trust requiring high ethical standards. As a general rule, I would always recommend against sharing negative professional experiences or views on a client, meeting or employer, or posting work-related documents on any social media account.

While everything you do or post online can be tracked or found, it doesn’t mean you should simply post nothing on the profiles you create. It simply means giving some thought to what you do post, as a professional, and remembering that what goes online generally stays online. Social media requires careful thought, time, commitment, patience and content to make it a meaningful professional exercise.

Alessia Maruca is NAATI's communications manager. She is responsible for managing editorial and promotional support for all NAATI communication material as well as co-ordinating communication and stakeholder strategies, digital media and other services and projects. This article was original written for the ASLIA e-update and is reproduced with permission.

Published: 08/06/2016