An incubator provides suitable conditions for growth and change over time. The end of the incubation period is often marked by significant observable events. For example, an egg’s incubation period ends when it hatches and the chick emerges into the world.
It is easy to see how massage school is an incubator, with new graduates emerging to begin interacting in their new role of massage therapist. Just as a chick matures to an adult, massage therapists tend to mature and grow too.
Social media for massage therapists serves as an incubator not only for all kinds of ideas, but also for professional development, and we can all benefit from it.
Professional development “is the pursuit of knowledge that helps students, teachers and other professionals achieve career advancement or enhance their personal effectiveness at school or work.” (Source: Learn.org.)
In 1998, America Online (AOL) was competing tooth-and-nail with Yahoo and other online service providers. Most people still paid a monthly subscription fee to have internet access. Online discussion forums, dating sites and other aspects of modern social media were still new.
I became an AOL Community Leader in exchange for free internet service, and my job was to moderate discussion groups. Since then, I have moderated many different online discussion groups, and I have learned a lot about how social media participation can help—or harm—professional development. Therefore, how you interact with others via social media could make or break your career.
From MT to summit founder
Social media gives you the ability to make choices about how you interact with others to learn new ideas. The choices you make play a large role in what you get out of these interactions.
Rajam Roose is a massage therapist who is an outstanding example of how social media for massage therapists can promote extraordinary personal and professional growth.
Roose had a successful practice in San Diego for more than 12 years. Thanks to social media, she became a seminar host, a published author, and then founder and executive director of the San Diego Pain Summit.
She closed her practice to focus on the summit and on growing her business as a continuing education provider and business marketing consultant. (She is known to thousands of massage and medical professionals around the world, and is respected by some of the leading minds in pain science and rehabilitation. Read Roose’s article, “Be a Better Massage Therapist by Understanding Research,” in the June 2016 issue of MASSAGE Magazine.)
Social Media for Massage Therapists
Here are some of the useful things you can learn from my 19 years in social media leadership roles:
Social media is not just for marketing.
It’s wise to use social media to promote yourself and your business, but flooding the internet with ads and inspirational images isn’t the only way to use it. The most transformational professional development I’ve seen in others, and experienced myself, follows these nine points.
You are not your ideas, beliefs, or profession(s).
You are a person. The things you think, believe, and do are not the totality of who you are. It’s OK for people to disagree with your ideas, beliefs, professional standards or practices. When people challenge ideas, beliefs, or practices that you are comfortable with, the natural response is to become defensive because we tend to interpret new, conflicting information like a physical threat.
If you find yourself getting angry about an online disagreement, calm down before responding. If you can detach yourself from ideas, beliefs, and practices, it is much easier to consider new information without feeling threatened by it, and you will benefit more from online interactions.
Treat others as if they are right in front of you.
People usually treat each other better when they are face to face. Online, many people say things to each other that they would never say in person. When you respond to others as if they were right in front of you, you’ll be more respected for how you treat others as well as the quality of your responses.
Post comments and images as if the internet is forever—because it is.
Anything you post online can come back to help or haunt you later. Screen shots others save preserve your words for future reference even if you delete your comments. Likewise, if you write something good, it can reflect well on you for years.
Critical thinking is your friend.
When someone is trying to mislead you, critical thinking can help you recognize the deception. If someone is well-meaning but simply doesn’t know what they’re talking about, critical thinking can help you recognize that, too. If you want to help others by providing information, critical thinking skills help you organize your thoughts to present a coherent message.
I like to think of critical thinking as a form of mental martial arts. It trains the mind to be stronger, more flexible, better able to adapt to changing circumstances, and is more effective in both attack and defense. The training can be difficult and occasionally painful, but it’s well worth the effort.
It’s OK to ask for evidence. It’s OK for others to ask you for evidence.
If someone offered to sell you a magic rock that cures cancer, would you ask for evidence or just hand over your money? Critical thinking reminds us that most rocks don’t cure cancer, so it would be reasonable to ask for evidence that this one does.
If you’re the person selling the rock, don’t be offended when people ask for evidence of your claims.
The quality of evidence matters.
Which evidence would you be more inclined to trust, A or B?
- A) The rock’s seller tells you their aunt owned this rock and recovered from cancer. They wrote a blog post about it last year.
- B) A medical center observed 440 people with cancer. Half spent time with this rock, and half spent time with a different rock. Despite receiving no medical care, the people who spent time with this rock recovered from cancer within a week after holding it for a period of time. Of those who spent time with the other rock, only a few recovered without medical care. The exact mechanisms involved in the magic rock group were unknown, and the effect size (100 percent recovery rate) far exceeded the placebo group. This study was published in a prominent medical journal.
Though we may like the person selling the rock, there is a massive difference in the qualities of A and B. Example A is an anecdote, a story that really provides no actual proof of the claim that the rock is magical and able to cure cancer. Such stories are used to sell all kinds of things, but they’re not inherently reliable. Example B provides much stronger proof of the claim that the rock may help cure cancer.
When someone makes an extraordinary claim, look at the evidence they provide. Is it more like A or B? If someone asks you for evidence, provide the best quality evidence you can. The more you can back up what you say with high quality evidence, the more your online reputation will benefit.
Debates can be civil. Civil debates are desirable.
When people have differing perspectives, and argue in favor of their positions on a topic, that is the essence of debate. The point of debate is not necessarily to convince the other person that they are wrong, but rather to convince those observing the debate that your position makes more sense than the other position.
Good debate relies on critical thinking and strong evidence presented well. Attacking the weak spots in someone’s argument (“Your claim of a magic rock is only based on a blog post”) is not a personal attack. It’s how you help others recognize problems in their evidence and reasoning. It’s how others help you recognize problems in your evidence and reasoning. It’s an effective way to learn while improving and practicing your mental martial arts, and it can form the basis of friendships. Those observing debates learn from them as well.
Read the evidence provided by others.
If you ask for evidence and someone provides it, take the time to read it. It might answer the rest of your questions before you ask them. You’ll probably learn something interesting and potentially useful. It’s a great way to build on what you know, and it may ignite a new interest that you’ll enjoy pursuing for years to come.
Put new knowledge to work.
It can be challenging to use new information in practice, but that is the goal of professional development. When we evolve our professional thinking and practice beyond what we learned in massage school, we really are developing as professionals.
Expand your good
When Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web in 1989, it enabled more people to access and exchange information more efficient, regardless of the distance between them. In essence, the internet was created to facilitate professional development.
This is exactly how social media for massage therapists may be utilized.
Thirty years later, the internet has continued to grow, expand and offer more good to the world—as long as you can use it correctly.
About the Author
Jason Erickson, B.C.T.M.B., C.P.T., is a massage therapist and personal trainer with practices in Eagan and Bloomington, Minnesota. He teaches continuing education classes, presents/hosts at conferences, works with elite athletes, and is a former American Massage Therapy Association Minnesota Chapter president.
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