People in Your Social Circle: Dr. Kathleen Young Chats with me About Social Networking Challenges for Clinicians

Last February, the Google Buzz fiasco affected lots of people who did not want their email relationships exposed to the world. At the time, Dr. Kathleen Young and I shot a bunch of emails back and forth sharing our concerns over the situation. Dr. Young, who also maintains a professional Twitter account pointed out to me how Google Searches were showing people’s other connections through Google, Facebook, and Twitter. Google’s Social Search is currently in Beta and is a way that Google is creating a network of connections to identify relevant social search results.

Dr. Young and I thought we would share some of our musings about this with readers.

Dr. Young: After Dr. Kolmes and I exchanged information and thoughts about Google Buzz, I decided to investigate further how my social media boundaries might be affected. The lack of information from Google about privacy settings and Buzz led me to consider whether I needed to maintain a Google Profile and what its value is.

So I Googled myself!

I do this periodically and encourage anyone to do the same to gain information about your online presence. I saw that at the bottom of my search page Google was linking me to other people “In my Social Circle”, information apparently culled from other sites like WordPress (where I blog) and Twitter. It was not immediately clear whether this was information the general public has access to or only for my benefit.

[You may click on all images below to see larger versions.]

Dr. Kolmes: The results from People in Your Social Circle is similar to an issue I faced a year or so ago when a site called Delver was combing my professional LinkedIn profile and merging it with my non-professional accounts due to crossover of friend networks. This was the primary reason I decided to make my LinkedIn profile non-public. I don’t want search engines to put together a picture of my identity based upon my connections, and it feels invasive to me after the extensive work I’ve put into separating my professional and personal lives on the Internet. Google does provide information on how to change and troubleshoot Your Social Circle, but it can be time-consuming to have to constantly manage this information.

Dr. Young: Navigating social media as a psychologist, and a consumer, and determining ways to do so ethically is a challenge! What the Google Buzz debacle reminded me is that this is brand new and constantly changing territory. It is not enough for us as clinicians (or really anyone who needs to maintain a separate professional online presence) to create good practices and think that will be enough. We have to stay on our toes and educate ourselves about changes. It is crucial to have information about what is available in advance versus responding after the fact. I find it absolutely necessary to have other social media savvy mental health professionals to consult with.

Dr. Kolmes: I completely agree with Dr. Young that it’s essential to have other social media savvy professionals with whom to consult. It is hard to find other professionals who are venturing forth into social media with shared values and caution. I am very grateful for those with whom I’ve made a connection. I see people on the extremes: those who are highly critical and believe that any social media presence is de facto a dangerous thing that compromises therapy relationships; or others who are using social media in careless ways potentially compromising basic ethical principles. It’s hard to find professionals who are visible on social media but are applying a thoughtful, principled standard to such usage.

Providers of confidential services may want to carefully consider which Social Content they wish to merge in their Google Profiles. I opted to remove Twitter from my Google profile for my business, as I did not want people looking at my Google profile to see a list of my Twitter followers. You can do this by accessing the Social Content settings on your profile and then you can de-select content that you do not want added to your profile. I also disabled Google Buzz completely.

Dr. Young: Like Dr. Kolmes, this experience has me reconsidering how I move through the social media world and what sites I connect to each other. More recently Facebook is encouraging users to link to other external websites. We need to think before acting in such situations. We also need to continue to request that social media sites provide clear privacy policy information and settings.  I have also opted to switch from to (which provides free and encrypted email services) for sensitive professional purposes.

I want to thank Dr. Young for taking the time to participate in this exchange with me and for alerting me to the People in Your Social Circle issue in the first place.

More and more sites are expanding the scope of their services to include social networking and sharing that their users never anticipated when they first signed up for the services. The latest such move is happening on Yahoo, where Updates will soon be broadcast to your Contacts, à la Google Buzz. You can find out more about how to opt-out of sharing on Yahoo, thanks to Kurt Opsahl over at

© 2010 Keely Kolmes, Psy.D.

To cite this page: Kolmes, K. (2010) People in Your Social Circle: Dr. Kathleen Young Chats with me About Social Networking Challenges for Clinicians. Retrieved month/day/year from