Does Social Networking Impair Sign Language Interpreter Ethics?

Wing Butler

The distance between our physical world and the virtual world of social media often invites behavior one would never project in real life. This virtual world introduces a whole new context of social norms and acceptable personal expression. Unfortunately, it appears in many cases that sign language interpreters appear to lack an awareness of the impact of social networking expression on their careers.  What’s more, when you combine this lack of awareness with the view that the right to self-expression precedes all obligations, the result is an ethical distortion that undermines the sanctity of the relationship interpreters have with the D/deaf community.

The Ethical Distortion of Social Media

A large part of a sign language interpreter’s skillset is a keen situational awareness that is guided by ethical standards intended to protect consumers, the integrity of the profession, and allow the interpreting process to flow unobstructed.

This professional skillset blends with our personal image and influences how we conduct ourselves publically, even off the clock. Because we identify so strongly with the tangibility of our physical space, what we call “real life,” the consequences of our behavior and personal expression are easy to identify. As a result, we are more easily able to avoid potential conflict.

Unfortunately, the cognitive distance between our physical world and the virtual world combined with this lack of awareness of the impact of social networking expression creates an illusion that impairs a sign language interpreter’s situational awareness. This impairment leads to a distorted view and understanding of what is ethically acceptable online. Sadly, the result is a large number of interpreters who are unaware that some of their social networking activity is a breach of their professional ethics.

The 4 Symptoms of Distortion

Because online communication mirrors our real world experience, identifying the 4 primary symptoms of a social networking induced distortion offers clarity on potential ethical missteps.

The following content is being used to exemplify the symptoms of ethical distortion and to elicit our reaction to them within the framework of our ethical obligations as sign language interpreters.

Symptom 1: The interpreter prioritizes the right of online self-expression above ethical responsibilities.

 Distortion Symptom 1

Symptom 2: The interpreter believes their social media page is an intimate private space.

 Distortion Symptom 2

Symptom 3: The interpreter assumes that only close friends, familiar with their personal circumstances, view them online. Notwithstanding the regular practice of “Googling” someone to obtain a character reference.

 Distortion Symptom 3Symptom 4: The Interpreter views digital content as temporary. They fail to understand that digital content, particularly images, will remain forever.

Jizzed my PantsWhen interpreters telegraph opposing political opinions, an emotional disposition, or intimate windows into their personal life, it may lead to reasons for incompatibility with the consumer, and thus the assignment.  You may have noticed in the comment section of Brandon Arthur’s post, How do Sign Language Interpreters Increase Opportunity in a Weak Economy?, Lucky expresses concern about the social networking activities of sign language interpreters.

This illusion induced ethical impairment is, and will be, responsible for an increasing amount of professional suicides among members of the sign language interpreting profession.

How Do We Intervene?

The premise of the Code of Professional Conduct (CPC) by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) was crafted to offer professional interpreters a behavioral compass of sorts. Clearly, the authors of this compass weren’t considering the impacts of social media when it was drafted. Having said that, in my view, any attempt to use the CPC as currently written to gauge the ethical boundaries of the intersection of social networking expression and sign language interpreter ethics will likely leave you scratching your head.

To answer the invite inconspicuously stated in the CPC, “This Code of Professional Conduct is a working document that is expected to change over time … [RID] members are encouraged to recommend changes for future updates.” Perhaps, we should consider adding an 8th tenet to the CPC to specifically address the ethical behavior displayed by sign language interpreters as a result of the proliferation of social media.

While this proposed addition to the CPC is not perfect, your feed is welcome and encouraged Note, the proposed tenet below is modeled after the American Medical Association’s Policy on social media.

Tenet 8:  Interpreters Conduct Themselves Professionally Online

The Internet has created the ability for sign language interpreters and the sign language community to communicate and share information quickly and with millions of people easily. Participating in social networking and other similar Internet opportunities can support interpreter’s personal expression, enable individual interpreters to have a professional presence online, foster collegiality and camaraderie within the profession, provide opportunity to widely disseminate industry related information and community-centric messages and other valuable communication. Social networks, blogs, and other forms of communication online also pose new challenges to the relationship between interpreters and their consumers. Interpreters should weigh a number of considerations when maintaining a presence online:

8.1 Interpreters should be cognizant of the standards of consumer privacy and confidentiality that must be maintained in all environments, including online, and must refrain from posting identifiable assignment information online.

8.2 When using the Internet for social networking, interpreters should use privacy settings to safeguard personal information and content to the extent possible, but should realize that privacy settings are not absolute and that once on the Internet, content is likely there permanently. Thus, interpreters should routinely monitor their own Internet presence to ensure that their personal and professional information on their own sites and, to the extent possible, content posted about them by others, is accurate and appropriate.

8.3 If they interact with the D/deaf community on the Internet, interpreters must appropriately maintain the boundaries of the interpreter-consumer relationship in accordance with ethical guidelines within the CPC, just as they would in any other context.

8.4 To maintain appropriate professional boundaries interpreters should consider separating personal and professional content online.

8.5 When interpreters see content posted by colleagues that appear unprofessional they have a responsibility to bring that content to the attention of the individual, so that he or she can remove it and/or take other appropriate action. If the behavior significantly violates professional norms and ethical standards and the individual does not take appropriate action to resolve the situation, the interpreter should refer to the EPS (Ethical Practices System) to file a complaint.

8.6 Interpreters must recognize that actions and content posted online may negatively affect their reputations among consumers and colleagues, may have negative consequences for their interpreting careers, and can undermine the public trust in the sign language interpreting profession.

8.7 Interpreters must recognize that the sign language community is a highly compact demography with significant bias to overcome. Therefore greater responsibility and sensitivity on the interpreter’s impact to community culture and consumers is necessary.

Again, feel free to share feedback on Tenet 8 above.

Pause Before You Post

As we wait on the time needed to see industry practices evolve to address current working realities, consider what follows as a guide for staying in bounds when you express yourself online.

First, try the “elevator test.”  You can do this by simply imagining that if you verbalized your post in a crowded elevator would it be considered unprofessional or call your ethics into question?

Second, make sure you can answer yes to the following questions:

1) I have removed identifying assignment information from my post?

2) Are my privacy settings on?

3) Have I considered the professional and ethical impact of this post?

4) Am I following the same ethical rules I would in the “real world?”

Personal Accountability

With the quickening dog years of technology, and the increasing convergence of our on-and-offline lives, it is imperative that sign language interpreters are armed with modern day tools and know-how and guidance. We need to work to ensure these tools are present in order to raise the bar in our online behavior and deepen the credibility of the industry.

Because professional ethics are the bedrock of the sign language interpreting profession, we should be asking ourselves what actions can be taken to reinforce the ethical position of sign language interpreters.

What can you do?


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About the Author

Wing Butler is an entrepreneur and sign language interpreter, passionate about building the sign language/Deaf economy. He uses his social media prowess and unique appreciation for life to build business opportunities that integrates the sign language and general business community. He enjoys spending time with his 4 children and lovely wife.

56 Enlightened Replies

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  1. Deaf Consumer says:

    As a deaf consumer who is also involved with the interpreting profession in a number of ways, and thus am quit familiar with the CPC, I also pride myself on being professional. I do not talk about interpreters that I’ve had. Facebook can be excellent for social AND professional networking, provided that the interpreters and consumers BOTH know the boundaries and what is considered appropriate.

    I am friends with a number of interpreters whom I consider to be very professional, and we are connected on Facebook. Does that mean we have shared insight into each other’s lives? Yes, as friends. But just as I don’t talk about my work on Facebook, neither do I expect them to talk about their work — unless they’re looking for advice on a potential situation and there is absolutely no way to discern who, what, where, etc., from the question. And even that rarely happens — in my experience, that is.

    So, I’m not absolutely positive that some of the above examples are necessarily bad (e.g., the joint/world peace one). As for the example about not liking it when consumers eat in front of them, that could probably be okay, but phrased in a way so as to be more educational and less “self-involved.” For example, “I had a client today who ate in front of me while I was working, and that made me uncomfortable. Is that okay? How can I better handle that in the future? Can I ask the client to not eat, as it’s distracting?”

    That’s my two cents, anyway….

    • Bridget Bange says:

      I love the feature of the internet that helps us connect with anyone in the world. I know that this is helping to shape the next generation to think more globally and understand world changing events. It saddens me that we use these social networking sights both as self expression and a way to judge others. That being said, as a business owner, I frequently check the Facebook pages of those who represent my agency. If I see a circumstance where there seems to be a breach of confidentiality, or I feel something they post could be detrimental to the name of the agency, I ask them to take the post down. The biggest flaw of social media that I see is that it lacks the emotion with which the post was made. Even something posted in fun could be misunderstood. I am all for self expression, just make sure that the expressions that you show are something that you would want every single person in the world to know about you including your mother, clergy, parole officer, and potential employers. The notion of privacy these days is just that, a notion, and to quote my favorite philosopher ( Martha A. Rogers) “Don’t show your rear end in public.”

      • Tracy says:

        This is why my facebook profile is set to private and the coordinators are set to limited profile. I use facebook more as a blog to repost links and political commentary that I find interesting. Because I’m never sure who would be offended by some of my views, if I am unsure, I set it so they can only see my profile picture and that’s it. My actual friends can still see my posts.

    • Wing B. says:

      Deaf Consumer,

      Your comments are a valuable two cents, and I would argue its worth more! You bring up a great point about the reciprocal relationship between consumer and interpreter. Certainly consumers could, and will, post comments about our work. Professionals like yourself understand the balance and care to nurture the trust within the interpreting relationship. At least for interpreters there is a system, by virtue of our certification, that allows us to challenge our ethical responses. When I consider the tables turned, discipline in creating a consistent professional online brand is important in everything we do.

      As for the eating post, I agree that there are better approaches. I hate to think that if I was a consumer and happened upon my interpreter’s post about eating, and recognizing the time-stamp correlates to my meeting, it would decimate any assumed trust I had with the interpreter. Even at face value, it appears to lack respect for the humanity of people. It may put in question whether that interpreter was a good match to be on my team.

      Thank you for your comment.

  2. Deaf Consumer says:

    Oops. Quite, not quit.

    And, thanks, Jon. :)

  3. Tamara Moxham says:

    Well said Wing. One thing I would strenuously caution against is the extreme definition of “confidentiality”. We as practitioners can use real situations as pedagogical tools to educate ourselves and one another and benefit both the interpreter and Deaf communities. Of course we will remove any identifying markers before having a linguistic and/or ethical discussion. This does not mean that an intepreter is being unethical if s/he discusses anything. I agree we need to make sure we are posting for actual professional development reasons. If something bothers me that’s my problem to deal with privately (read: offline) on my own. For example if I don’t like watching a deaf person eat I can get over it. If the deaf person eating is causing a problem because I can’t read the signs that is a legitimate discussion.

    In the end beyond privacy we need to ask ourselves will this post jeopardize anyone’s safety or dignity? If the answer is “yes” then don’t post it!

    • Wing B. says:


      I certainly agree that the healthy debriefing you describe is absolutely critical to our professional growth. Identifying the value derived in offline and online conversations should help us choose the appropriate venue for professional development.

  4. Kim says:

    Not only do I think about what I post but who posts on my wall. Do the friends and relationships you have on Facebook reflect on you professionally? This has crossed my mind since I have a variety of family and friends who are not involved in my professional life that at times post things that are frankly embarrassing. I have gone in and filtered out some of the contacts but I would like to know more about your professional opinion on this topic.

    • Wing B. says:

      Hi there Kim,

      You ask an important question about the influence on your professional brand from your network of friends, and what to do about it. I’ve seen others here recommend creating two profiles (professional and personal). While I think its a reasonable solution, technology should make life easier not more complicated. Removing and deleting friends that you sense may misbehave is a tough call to make. I believe it’s easier to manage your privacy preferences.

      This allows you to create gateways/filters on your content. Think of the rings on a target, your friends in the center ring see everything, the further out they are the less content they see. This requires you to define which groups see which posts, which may defeat the fun of spontaneous posting. All this said with Facebook in mind, although I’m sure there are similar preferences in other social networking lounges to keep your friends from blemishing you brand.

      Here’s a link that may help:
      My favorite is the link “Choose who to share with”. Hope this helps in your online brand development.

  5. MM says:

    I’m no technophobic but as a deaf person no amount of social texting/networking can replace face to face for me. I just don’t see I am a ‘world’ person because I can post to some social site, I don’t feel any real sense of ‘belonging’ to total strangers who may well not be who they are and maybe perverts or just collecting friends and followers, I blog and never use any social sites personally, and any friends I have I can see, touch and feel thanks. It becomes some sort of ‘in’ thing doesn’t it ? I’d never buy into that. People I do know deaf say they are deserting facebook, so the novelty with them is wearing off already,as was the relentless abuse they had to put up with, are social site friends real ? People need people, and not by proxy.

    • Wing B. says:


      Given the choice I would absolutely prefer person to person and I believe technology will never replace the need for real contact. Nonetheless we can’t deny that the billion plus virtual connections (texting, blogging, vlogging, reality TV, etc.,) are here to stay and are a real part of our daily life.

      As you mention, it is interesting to watch how our society will assimilate or reject social networks in our lives, and whether some have real staying power or just a fad. Consider the whirlwind of activity with social networks like the decline of MySpace, Facebook’s valuation on their IPO debate, and where is google+ in all this, Pinterest’s recent super climb into popularity, and you realize social media is still defining itself. This definition is directed by real people, like you and I, and our usage patterns of these social networks within our real life.

      In the meantime, I’d rather pull up a hot chocolate and chat on all things good with social media with you face to face. I’ll buy! Grin.

      • Kevin Lowery says:

        I completely agree. I love meeting people and seeing different places and be involved in a variety of scenarios. The humanity of what we do as interpreters is crucial. We are not CONDUITS. No, the Deaf do not need our help but it is very comforting to have someone who they can trust in a variety of ways. By using social media in the way that you have indicated, Win, it corrodes that trust. And, as interpreters, hasn’t it been difficult enough to obtain it?

  6. Harrison Jones says:

    I have attended workshops on this very topic and have formed opinions and practices due to the information I have learned. Personally, I refrain from accepting friends on Facebook if they are a client of mine and, if they are a friend on Facebook, I refrain from accepting them as a client.

    I have, also, made mistakes in my professionalism online. Due to this, I have had to backtrack and apologize for certain things and remove them from the web.

    On the idea of adding a tenet to the CPC, I feel as if, perhaps, clarification under the second or third tenet discussing professionalism and conduct might be a better option. Perhaps add illustrating behaviors under each of the applicable tenets currently existing specifically related to online behavior and use.

    • Tracy says:

      It’s nice to hear someone admit mistakes. I too have posted things in regret and have had to apologize for them and/or delete them. I then spend the next year agonizing over how “bad” i am (no joke). I think that is what is often missing in these discussions. I think often times interpreters are afraid to admit fault because of the shame and judgement they may feel is coming their way, and it prevents them from fixing their mistakes and just moving on.

    • Wing B. says:

      HI there Harrison,

      I commend you for applying the information you have learned. More impressive is the corrective work you’ve done to repair relationships and align your your current online presence.

      I have certainly struggled with adding a tenant, or blend within the current framework and I can see its value whichever way. Either way, the current CPC could use a modern day application.

  7. jeri jackson says:

    i completly agree wing welll said …. i see this often and i am shocked sometimes with the things i read so i hope rid will take action and make this stop .

  8. Gerdinand Wagenaar says:

    Being a tiny bit sensitive to hypocrisy and believing you should practice what you preach, I have to respond:
    In the illustration accompanying ‘symptom 4′ in your article, you should have ‘blurred’ the image of the interpreter, like you anonymised the text-based illustrations for the first three ‘symptoms’.
    I believe that your failure to do so means that you can’t honestly answer ‘yes’ to at least two out of the four questions you ask your readers to consider before posting anything in social media. If, as you claim, posting such content equals professional suicide, doesn’t your unanonymised copy-pasting of such content equate to (attempted) professional homicide?
    It is fair to assume, that you yourself aim at living up to all articles of the Tenant you propose, right? In your post you break at the very least article 8.5 (or have you first approached your colleague and then “referred to the EPS to file a complaint”?), and probably 8.1, 8.6 and 8.7 as well.

    P.S. My knowledge of English is non-native, but are you seriously referring to sign language interpreting when you state there is a need to ‘deepen the creditability (sic!) of the industry (sic!)’?
    For non-native users of Latin: the term ‘sic’ may look and even sound like the English term ‘sick’, but in about 99.99% of the cases doesn’t mean that at all…

    • Wing B. says:

      HI there Gerdinand,

      I appreciate your perspective and sensing that there may be others who share the same thoughts, your post allows me to clarify the nature of the image posted (Symptom 4) within the article. The image is a frame from a Youtube video that depicts two performers signing to a song as part of their skit. Therefore not an interpreting assignment.

      Your comments demonstrate the potential volatility of images “worth a thousand words”. Depending on the context, understanding of the individual’s intent, and many other factors, an image’s placement could be easily misunderstood, especially if the we don’t know the real world context of the individual. In full confession, I struggled with even the blurred images knowing the goodness of the interpreters listed.

      I opted to lean on the interpreter industry’s professionalism and value of real world examples in hopes we could speak about “the work/product” rather than the individual. Certainly, additional guidance on ethical behavior online would serve to standardize our varied approaches. I absolutely mean no harm.

      Finally, my statement,”deepen the credibility of the industry” comes from my own personal world view. It seems to me that while we have made great gains in the accreditation and sophistication of sign language interpreters, we are under economic pressure that threatens to demote the sing language interpreter in the United States. A quick sample: “Communications Assistants” (A term used by the Federal Communications Commission in the delivery of Telecommunications Relay Services), “Qualified Interpreter” (A term used in the Americans with Disabilities Act). While it may seem only semantics, often these terms are viewed as less than a professionally accredited certified practitioner. I am certain there may be differing views, especially in other countries. Nonetheless, I am concerned about the potential erosion to the value of the professional certified interpreter.

      Thank you for your passion and thoughts.

      • Gerdinand Wagenaar says:

        Thanks for taking the time to respond.
        So, as an illustration for unethical behavior of sign language interpreters in social media, you chose a recognizable picture of two performers, at least one of whom happens to be a sign language interpreter? Allow me to consider that unethical, as I argued in my post.
        I know more than a few very capable colleagues who are perfectly able to separate their roles as ‘performers’ and ‘interpreters’. In my legal system your illustration would be material for a very interesting court case.

        Coming from a non-USA deaf community, I can’t help but detest the term ‘industry’ when referring to our profession, and I couldn’t help but thinking of your term ‘creditability’ as a telling freudian ‘slip of the keyboard’.

        Finally, I think the profession in both your and my country already has all the tools in place to deal with inappropriate postings. No further tenet is needed.

  9. Dan Parvaz says:

    Some interesting points to consider, Wing… although by biting their feet and toenails, the client is just bringing public ridicule on themselves, although that is an impressive level of flexibility :-)

    On a more serious note, I’d argue that an additional CPC tenet for online behavior is unnecessary. All the previous tenets apply, the only thing that has changed is the environment, with its accompanying permanence (politicians are figuring this out… whenever they swear that they’ve “never said X”, we can punch it up on YouTube) and privacy uncertainties. To a certain extent, we have always had these issues, in the “fishbowl” of the Deaf community, only now it’s on permanent record.

    Interpreting has entered other areas as well — VRS and VRI allow for all kinds of dissemination and privacy issues. New tenets are not needed, so much as perhaps additional guidelines which address new environments.

    • Wing B. says:


      Good call.

      In writing the article the thought of adding context to the CPC to include online ethics, supported by illustrative behavior sub-tenants, did cross my mind. I thought that by separating the content to an 8th tenant would allow for clearer discussion on the necessary principles and elements of ethical online behavior.

      I’m certainly not opposed to it.

      • Dan Parvaz says:

        It’s worth discussing. In reading your article, I kept asking myself if the ethical imperatives or principles involved had in fact changed, and I couldn’t find any. The environment, however, has shifted under our feet and has us questioning what is “public” or “private” communication, and hence issues of confidentiality.

        Either way, this is an important discussion, and should be continued — not only for the CPC. but other interpreter-related issues like intellectual property (not unknown to you, since some of yours is floating around out there).

      • I like the idea of a separate tenent to keep it as clear as possible to reduce ambiguity for interpreters. Here is where I struggle: I want to connect socially thru vlogging on personal topics and professional ones. Can an interpreter share on topics such as politics, faith, social issues, personal perspectives on the work of interpreting or are those, which could be objectionable to someone or sets of someones, issues we have to forego? That would be a bummer because it is a valuable growth opportunity to share in community with other ASL users.

        • Wing B. says:

          Hi there Shelley,

          I am certain your struggle is shared by most, I certainly do. I believe an additional tenet would be helpful in guiding us through potential pitfalls in regards to impact on the consumer. I am not sure if additional CPC guidance should tell us what topics are off limits.

          It seems to me that the struggle we share is how much of our personal identity to share online; politics, faith etc. In my mind that is a “personal branding” question rather than an ethical conundrum. I am personally OK with all of the “personal topics” you mention as long as we are aware of the potential impact on our career and added color to our brand. We shouldn’t be surprised if a consumer or agency decided we were a good fit, or not, based on our personal beliefs or positions stated in public spaces.

          With that said, there is certainly value in discussing our personal beliefs’ impact on the work. Sounds like a workshop I took from Betty Colonomos regarding our personal baggage’s impact on our work. It was a good one.

  10. CI/CT Interpreter says:

    Note, also, that interpreters who use location based social networking (Foursquare, et al) should never check into the location where they are working.

  11. Juliann Wasisco says:

    A M E N!

    Juliann Wasisco Certified Deaf Interpreter!

  12. Helen Young says:

    Personally, I am a little tired of big goverment looking over our sholder so I feel the same about RID. WE have our basic tenents, is that not good enough??? Do we have to outline and be specific or can we give basic guide lines. I am sure the interpreter was just making up that situation anyway so to me it is not a big deal.
    I saw these post about the pot and didnt think anything of it, it was a general statement for humor, there was no invitation or promotion of pot…

    • Wing B. says:

      Thanks for your comment Helen,

      I’m certainly supportive of more free speech than censorship. Your comment about basic guidelines is exactly what this discussion is about. Just as you viewed the posts as no big deal, to another it is. The question is, does this kind of post, joking or made up, reflect well upon the profession, community and the poster’s personal professionalism? The above article is an attempt to begin the conversation on basic guidelines.

      I’d be interested in anymore thoughts on what should or shouldn’t be a part of those guidelines?

  13. MM says:

    If you are going to ‘network’ with real friends, why would you publish everything on a site anyone can read or access ? It then goes from ‘networking’ to ego promotions doesn’t it. If you are with friends at a club or a public place and when ou are talking ALL the pub stands around and listens in, would you not consider that unacceptable ? yet social sites do exactly that, perhaps there is an assumption online is ‘out there’ and it doesn’t matter, recent court cases in the UK say quite differently. I e-mail my friends and there is I feel more than enough deterrent for people wanting to read them I don’t want them reading, why make it easier for the clowns..

  14. There are many interesting comments shared for us to consider and discuss in this post; however, I am struggling with how to handle a different matter. When I read a piece using professional and academic language, I expect the author (and perhaps the editor)to check on use of terms that are prominent in the text. Dan Parvaz, bless his “hearing heart” for correcting the error in a subtle way. Perhaps too subtle, as it was not noticed (or acknowledged.) The word ‘tenet’ is what is meant; the word used (tenant) is not related to the concept in any way. I hope readers will understand the intent of this post, instead of dismissing it as ‘picky’. As a coda, I am sensitive to these linguistic issues (codas’ competence with English in high registers)that I see so often. It’s not so much about English competency as it is about why this was not rectified before publishing. It has an impact on credibility and attitude. We see this reaction when a Deaf person uses a word that is similar to the term that a native speaker would use, but means something totally different. Let’s all be more vigilant so that our message can be conveyed unimpeded by unmet expectations of language proficiency.

    • Betty,

      Thanks for your comment.

      As the curator of the site, I very much appreciate your point. We certainly don’t want the voices of those sharing insight or daring to challenge the status quo to be taken less seriously as a result of an editor’s oversight.

      I take complete responsibility here and have made the needed adjustments to the piece.

      I would like extend my apology to the readership and offer my commitment to being more vigilant to ensure readers are not impeded by editorial oversights.

      Again, thanks for you comment Betty.

      Lastly, I would like to apologize to Wing for the oversight. Your insight and contribution here are significant.

      • Thanks for your response. I see that ‘tenant’ was changed to ‘tenent’ but the correct term is ‘tenet’.


        • Wing B. says:

          HI there Betty,

          I’ve edited as suggested.

          Regarding the greater picture and the essence of the document, I would be interested in your observation on the ethical dilemmas seen in interpreter’s online behavior.

          Any thoughts?


    • Wing B. says:

      Hi there Betty,

      I always appreciate your wisdom and feedback. Brandon was kind to accept responsibility, although I must take full accountability for the error. In the spirit of all things human, I clearly remember spell-check challenging me on my original spelling and a negligent spidey sense allowed for the misappropriated result. As a coda, I certainly could use additional training on English. I appreciate the collective feedback on social media behavior and look toward a team approach to adjusting the tenets (wink) within the CPC.

  15. Ricardo Ortiz says:

    I do agree that this issue has to be adressed. Not necesarily to control peoples lives but to create awareness so we can all stop and think about the consequences of our postings. For example:

    I wouldn’t post something specificaly related to an assignment. I’ve seen many people post things like: e.g “on my way to interpret at the Florida hospital”, and add the location. Or “this math class is so boring and I can’t beleive the student wants me to do the homework for him”. This might look like it’s nothing but oftemtimes I catch who te client or the teacher is just with the information provided. Or when interpreters meet in person just a gesture or a voice intonation can let me know right away who you are talking about. So you didn’t actually have to give me names or places for me to know who or what you are talking about.

    At the same time I’ve had online discussions that have helped me grow while seeing other people perspectives that I couldn’t have otherwise. Sometimes heated discussions that are not necesarily bad. I’m pretty sure that all people involved got something positive out of it. And the fact that I disagree with somebody doesn’t mean that I am or going to become his/her enemy. People should be more mature than that.

  16. Ricardo Ortiz says:

    On the “accepting assignments based on who my friends are on facebook” I have to disagree. I do understand that i shouldn’t accept an assignment if the person is a family member or a partner. But if I were to turn down every assignment that involves a friend of mind then I would have to change professions because I have more and closer Deaf friends than Hearing at this point of my life. So for me that’s an unreal expectation.

    On the other hand, agencies have to be careful too on to what extent and why they consider a post to be detrimental to the agency and how much they can get involved and the kind of actions they take. After all there are things that are not work related that a person can post and be found detrimental just because the agency’s management person who saw it is from a different political party or religion or sexual preference. So they have to be careful not to fall in discrimination or violate the freedom of speech of somebody.

    There is also other people who only post beautiful things because they are trying to sell an image that does not matches them. I would rather have a friend that disagrees with me and can discuss controversial topics and then go for a coffee than an unknown enemy who agrees with me all the time and backstabs me when I’m not present.

  17. MM says:

    In the UK I assumed all interpreters/note takers,and support workers for deaf people were bound by the official secrets act ? So if a terp is going online making comments about their charges then they can be fired, and right to work with deaf people removed, the net doesn’t offer them immunity. I’d certainly report any I saw doing that. Even deaf relay service operators are bound by the same law.

  18. Ellen C Hayes says:

    Thank you, Wing! Great article. No online social media should be used to discuss your work. Period. Once you get into a habit of chatting… loose lips will sink ships. If you have a confidante fellow interpreter that you can ask questions of, you don’t need to do it in a social media setting. I am appalled it would even be thought to be the place.

  19. Angi, Texas says:

    I think the advent of social media has made some demands that just wouldn’t be stood for normally. Essentially we are now expected to be “on the job” 100% of the time because an employer MAY look up our name and not like our politics, religion, family members, personal opinions. I think instead of us having to exercise such stringent constrictions, perhaps EMPLOYERS need to remember that if it isn’t on the resume/application, it’s not relevant. This is discrimination. It has nothing to do with the job and I don’t see how my personal life reflects on the company. Even if I go out and get drunk every night, that has nothing to do with the company. The ONLY time it affects the company is if I show up drunk, or it affects my performance, AT WORK.

    While I expect interpreters to respect MY privacy and not discuss me with other people, I respect theirs and don’t go around checking to see if they are someone I’ll be friends with. I just want someone who will do the job and do it right. IME, you don’t know that until they get on the job or you ask their references. Facebook is not a reference. My grandma always told me: “Just because a person has their windows open doesn’t mean you peek in their homes.” I believe that applies here.

    • Wing B. says:

      HI there Angi,

      Good comments and I am certain there are many who feel the same way. I’d like to add a couple of thoughts to your current lens and would like to see if your reaction is influenced differently.

      What you describe about employer’s separating our personal life from our performance at work would be in line with industrial age values. The characteristics of this era is an extreme focus on the product/widget at all costs, employees were viewed as machines and were to leave their hearts and minds at the door. Thus separation between work and personal life is easier.

      While I am sure this paradigm still remains in some degree, our modern times introduces information age values within the work place. The value is no longer placed on the widget but more on the human capital of the team, especially in professional services, where our mental disposition, ability to work with others, innovation, creativity, and mental capacity are paramount to our job function. In this paradigm, what we do in our off time does influence our work/product. The result is employers sensitive to the whole package for a character fit. Any activity that casts doubt to our contribution would certainly become a concern for the employer.

      Finally, your grandma is absolutely correct and we would be better people in following her advice. Notwithstanding, she too is faced with a quickly changing world. In my mind, she is faced with the distortion of symptom 2, assumes that social networking is a private/intimate space. May I suggest that the open window into her living room is not social networking, rather social networking is the park just outside her window. Any activity at the park is public.

      I’d love to hear your thoughts.

      • Angi, Texas says:

        I see what you’re saying, and to some extent it makes sense. However, essentially we are supposed to silence ourselves because our public conversation might be overheard and our entire selves judged based off a blurb that does not entirely define us, with of course social media being the public conversation and a status update being the blurb. It’s the equivalent of walking by someone in a restaurant and hearing them say “I hate black people” then assuming they are racist when they could have just been relating a story about a racist person they encountered (my grandma also had words to say about eavesdropping..those would also apply here).

        Also, take into account, there is NO ONE in this world that is 100% likable. I know that my political opinions drive my husband a bit nuts. If he was to look at my facebook page he’d never have gone out with me, however we work well together as a married couple and have a deep love and commitment to one another. My facebook does not represent the entirety of who I am. For someone to decide by that that I’m worth employing shows that they are a shallow and judgmental person, not a person that has the intellectual capacity to realize that there are all kinds of things that make up a human being.

        I agree that FB is not a “private space’, but I feel that it is a “personal space”. If we’re going to make our lives a basis for our employment, and therefore become property of the company in order for them to have a “character fit” (what is that anyhow?), then we should definitely be prepared for more demands on ourselves. What will our response be when we have to outline our diet, our sexual history, etc? When will we ever be on “personal time” and not a product of the company? I say we have already placed ourselves in a position that we have to always keep in mind our job, every second. So that ONE time you get drunk? Forget it. That “free love” concept not popular in society, nope. In fact, you better be as bland and uninteresting as possible, no cues into yourself at all, unless you’re hiding behind the doors of your home..y’know, just in case that personal conversation gets replayed for a boss. I don’t feel it’s an extreme example at all because history shows us that things will expand as far as we allow it. If we continue to allow employers to consider facebook, a blog, a comment on a message board as a basis for employment, eventually they are going to want more information “for the good of the company”. I think the refusal to hire people based on their weight proves this. We’ve allowed the company to tell us how to live based on their approval of our eating habits and naturally they took it “for insurance purposes”.

        My husband is rushing me to go to the store, so I’ll cut this short. If anything is not clear, go ahead and ask and I’ll be happy to clarify. What you say makes sense, but to me that doesn’t make it right. I hope what I say at least makes sense.

  20. Helen Young says:

    Thank you for saying what I was trying to express. I couldnt agree with you more.
    What is personal should remain so, use common sense and dont bad mouth your employer on FB or co workers but if someone post a picture of you plastered at a party, that should not count against you.

    Thanks again

  21. MM says:

    A terp we use is on facebook every day, whilst so far she doesn’t mention her charges her ‘social life’ appears totally outrageous! The issue is deaf tend to treat interpreters they use as friends/confidants too, personally I always draw a line, unlike some I know who socialise with terps, which I think is a risk, because deaf when they sign can be understood by anyone who understands sign language, and more than once I have picked up personal details they have imparted to their terp in social areas, deaf can see it as a continuation of support but it really isn’t. Once outside the privacy of the support area, ZIP IT !

  22. Paul Kelly says:

    Thanks for writing this article! As a sign language interpreter, I can definitely say that this topic is very relevant with regard to issues facing interpreters today and more should be written about it.

  23. Joel says:

    Thank you for pointing out my struggle with social networking. I rarely post comments on FaceBook and do not really get into Twitter. I thought it was a personality thing but it seemed to go beyond that and you’ve nailed it. The consequence of social networking expression, if done wrong, can bring a hamper on my professional life as a tax compliance specialist. I would not want to taint my creditably because of some dumb random comments I’d post to the eternal and un-erasable recording of the Internet.

  24. Linda Hawthorne says:

    First of all, let me commend the author on bringing up this topic in such a interesting way. There are as many different opinions as there are interpeters, and I love hearing the various ideas.
    However, there was a point brought up that I am wondering about. Some of the posts alluded to the fact of not being “friends {real life or social media} with your deaf clients. I of course would never accept an assignment that would put me in a situation where I could not remain neutral, but I have many deaf friends that I interpret for occasionaly.
    As any other professional I have friends from pther professions. If I see my medical Dr. at work I do not discuss my medical diagnosis with him. I could introduce him as my doctor whereas he would not be allowed introduce me as his patient. Does that make us “not friends”. Now we have two distinct and entirely different relationships. My friend who cuts my hair is deaf. Does that mean I can never interpret for her at a drs appointment or a business appointment? Have we gotten so afradi of teh “helper model” that we have clung to the the “machine conduit? Isnt there a happy medium. I would never post about a client on a social media site but to say that to not mention my personal beliefs is ludicrous. If I was afraid everythng I thought and believed would be scrutinized I have become nothing more than a pair of hands and a mouth. My experiences make me who I am and a better interpreter because of it. Ok Off of my soap box.

  25. Dawn Duran says:

    I am just catching up on reading some of the articles here and really liked this article and resulting posts. Wing, I love your thoughts. I have been involved in many discussions on this topic. One area of concern wasn’t directly mentioned here. I have had to give real consideration to what I as an interpreter choose to read on social media sites. I am not on FB, but I was for a very short time. Because of my interest in developing my skills as a legal interpreter, many individuals posted comments and questions regarding ongoing cases in this area. The posts were not from interpreters necessarily but parties to those cases. It really created a difficult situation for me because I was learning outside information about a case that I should not be aware of should I be called to interpret for any party and in any role as a legal interpreter. I realized I would have to decline those jobs if called to interpret those cases because of the types of information posted and the appearance that I was not a neutal interpreter particularly when multiple Deaf were involved. I got off FB mostly because I am old and not interested in it, but also because I needed to think about how to manage who I “friended” and what I read. Just another issue to consider in the scope of the larger discussion.

  26. Wing says:

    HI there Dawn,

    Good points. What you share is a healthy understanding of “Symptom 1: The interpreter prioritizes the right of online self-expression above ethical responsibilities.”

    Your mature view of your legal work has influenced you even further than just monitoring “what you post”, but also “what posts you read”. Doing so certainly adds value to the type of interpreter you are.

    Thanks for the insight.


  27. Kevin says:

    Wing, you bring up a very timely subject. Social media affects all aspects of our interpreting (and some would argue) our personal lives. Whether it is professionalism, confidentiality or respecting consumers using social media without ethical qualifiers is an issue. I like these tenets, I just think they would be more aptly placed within the tenets that they address. For example, your 8.2 correlates directly with confidentiality. It could be placed directly underneath. Yet, that might not make the same impact. Being married to a Deaf person now I see the other side of interpreting, just as I am sure you have, growing up with Deaf parents. It makes me realize how even more I am “on the spot” and must keep my personal life out of the eye of the public. Thank you for sharing.

    • Wing says:

      Thanks for your comments Kevin. Sometimes it take a walk in the shoes of another to get closer to the issue. I can also see a case for adding an 8.2. EIther way, more clarity around online behavior seems timely.

  28. Newbie says:

    Well, I’m a year late reading this but nonetheless, it is still applicable. I have noticed how social media has caused breaches of confidentiality and been an inappropriate place to comment about one’s job as an interpreter. I think it’s great that you got discussion going on this topic and feel it needs to be explored further. Some adjustment to the CPC might very well be beneficial.

    Being in the profession less than five years, there is so much I still need to learn. Your tenet 8.3 says, “If they interact with the D/deaf community on the Internet, interpreters must appropriately maintain the boundaries of the interpreter-consumer relationship in accordance with ethical guidelines within the CPC…” I’m curious like some of the others who posted above what exactly you mean here. I have interpreted professionally for people I consider friends (in the flesh, not just FB) and I have FB friends who are also people I professionally interpret for. I do not ever request a deaf person I’ve interpreted as my friend but if they request me, I will accept. I do not post on my FB about my jobs except to occasionally say that I love my job. I never post anything specific. From my reading of your tenet 8.3, I wonder if you’re saying that is a bad thing. The deaf community is small and if one is involved in deaf community events, it is likely that friendships will develop. I would not accept an assignment that I did not feel I could remain neutral about, nor would I accept an assignment where I did not think I could accurately represent both consumers. I maintain confidentiality about my assignments. So what’s wrong with interpreting for people I consider friends?

    I also don’t see a difference between symptom 2 and 3.

    Any insight you can provide will be extremely helpful as I am fairly new to the field and want to establish myself as an honest, trustworthy, capable interpreter.

    • Wing says:

      HI there Newbie,

      You’re one year later, and I’m a couple months late to the response. Does that make us even? In my mind anytime to talk about furthering our understanding of our profession is never too late. Thank you for your comments.

      Your question about 8.3 and its proximity to the friendships we make online and in person is a good one. I wouldn’t say I am suggesting that we cut off relationships, its the lifeblood of how we keep ourselves grounded with the Deaf community. I would say that it may require that we deny a job, ask for an appropriate team (in the case of a request for you) just in case things become where you need to be the friend not the interpreter, or even ask the agency sending you to ask if its o.k. that you are the interpreter where they may not realize you are assigned to the job.

      As for your question about Symptom 2 and 3 akin to eachother, I can see that. When I wrote it, the distinction in my mind was that Symptom 2 was behavioral and Sympton 3 was more about conscience online reputation management.

      Incidentally, I ran into this website today that allows you to manage how you show up in Google searches. Your first two web profiles are free.

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