In education

A Facebook private message happens at 8:57 pm, “out of working hours” (Casey et al., 2014), which leads to a work call and work discussion in the late evening. With the advent of social media as a resource for professional communication, the boundary between work and play is fuzzier than ever. Friends on Facebook are also colleagues. Professional communities of practice lead to personal affiliations. While we’ve always had conflation of professional and personal space, the prevalent use of social media is merging our relationships further. Attempts to “list” people (Twitter and Facebook) or “circle” people (google plus) are a nod to attempted boundaries, but culling lists can become time consuming and even political.

This intersection of personal and professional is leading to new quandaries and rules around interactions. For example, on Facebook, do I like their personal page or their professional page? Both? Which is appropriate? Is it rude if I don’t friend someone? What if they only have a personal page?

Complicating matters, choices of boundaries are individually driven: some individuals may have strong divisions in their networks, while others are comfortable with a degree of murkiness. And while some may opt out of the social media quandary entirely, they then may be missing valuable extra-work opportunities for connection and support.

As we move increasingly into a world of asynchronous, geographically open communication, our traditional boundaries are shifting dramatically and heralding a call for increased worker autonomy (Harvard Business Review Article).  When a professional can easily do their work from home, calling them to be at their desk at prescribed times seems mistrustful. Social media can fill the void created by physical absence by providing an extra-work space for communication.

Perhaps personal and professional boundaries will rest less with social media technology or innovations, but simply remain a personal choice in how an individual engages in their networks and uses their tools. Individuals with boundaries will have move overlap in their social media use, while those with firm boundaries will make clear divisions in their networks between work and play spaces. Social media exposes the greater question: how much of a boundary do we need between our work/ play selves?

Will the intention behind our work/ play boundaries – exemplified by the traditional 9-5 workday – serve us in this multi-layered world of identity and interaction?


Casey, A., Goodyear, V. & Kirk, D. (2014): Tweet me, message me, like me: Using social media to facilitate pedagogical change within an emerging community of practice. Sport, Education and Society, 1-18. DOI: 10.1080/13573322.2013.858624

Photo credit, used courtesy of Creative Commons. Revision: photo added to grey background.

Recommended Posts
Showing 4 comments
  • Nicole Reid

    I think you make a great point and this is something that Josh and I mentioned in our podcast a couple weeks back. I think there needs to be a boundary I do not like to take work home with me I rather spend it with my family and pets. But if its an emergency at work I can see a coworker facebooking me saying they need a shift covered. At my job at a grocery store we have a Facebook group which constantly has job swaps available and needing people to come into work in a post. So if you are constantly checking that group you may feel obligated to come in a lot of the time.

  • Rachel

    Interesting challenge, eh? I think it comes to down to having internal rather than external boundaries. We have decide when to draw the lines rather than following the rules. The rules are slowly disappearing!

  • LeaderLibrarian

    I was thinking the same thing Rachel. It gets even more complicated in jobs that say they don’t want you to take work home but in reality, everyone must. Like K-12 teachers. Since there is little to no time during the workday to participate in social media, all collaboration occurs in off-work hours. A negative image starts to evolve around teachers who don’t work mad hours.

  • Rachel

    Right? And then we start perpetuating a culture of burn out. It’s challenging to know when to draw the line when we care about our students.

Say Hi

Please send me a message. I look forward to hearing from you!

Not readable? Change text. captcha txt
%d bloggers like this: