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.