Is it ever OK to be on Twitter or Facebook at work?

twitter cover“Mrs. Ralf, I found you on Twitter this weekend and noticed you posted during school hours last week.”

Hmm. How should I respond to this?  At first, I felt a bit guilty.  Yes, I did tweet during school hours last week.

“So….What did I Tweet about?  Was it some sort of teacher type stuff?”

He/she didn’t respond at first.  I continued to question him/her since he/she obviously had been trolling me.

“Did you find my blog?  Did you find the other publications that have published my writing?”

At this point the poor child looked like he/she was sorry that he/she ever brought it up.  But since he/she brought it up in front of the whole class I decided to use it as a teachable moment.  Be sure to keep your cyber self clean just in case someone decides to troll you.

Yet this brings up an interesting dilemma.  Is it ever OK to be on Social Networking sites like Twitter and Facebook while at work?

For some professions, the use of social media is imperative.  An acquaintance of mine who is a reporter for a well-known international news agency said that he uses social media to promote his own stories, keep in contact with other colleagues, and chase down developing stories. Reporters at his paper are also trained to write headlines that will more easily appear higher on the  Google News page or have a higher chance of being re-tweeted.  His paper also has a Social Media Editor who is in charge of tracking the reach of their articles on social media.

Another acquaintance of mine who works for a well-known NGO said he is also noticing the growing use of Twitter at work related conferences.  At a recent gathering in Geneva, he looked around the room and saw many audience members staring at their phones.  During a dull moment he decided to scroll through his Twitter feed.  He realized that audience members weren’t messing around on their phones.  The audience looked passive, but in actuality they were quite engaged in the presentation by participating in the discussion on Twitter.

My Marketing, Business and Management friends use social media for networking.  Imagine that?  Their job is to get the word out about their product or service.  Their job is to keep the customer satisfied and engaging with their product.  Their job is to network with others to discover what new products need to be made. Their job is all about social networking.

Not surprisingly, some of the friends that I polled stated that they are not allowed to use social media on the job. Those working in hospitals or government jobs, even those who are in charge of IT Networks, said that Twitter, Facebook, and the Google+ are blocked at their work place.  One friend mentioned that this did not stop the use of social media in his workplace.   The employees just use their smart phones instead of their computers to connect.

I find that more and more teachers are giving up their accrued email lists and moving towards Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Facebook to keep connected.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 11.36.12I ran a small poll on an International School teachers group on Facebook.  Out of a group of over 7000 members, only 60 responded. One could say that the results of my poll are a bit tainted since I used social media to poll teachers. Only teachers who are currently using social media would be able respond.

Of those that responded, over half said they were using social media often at school to connect with resources, colleagues, and curriculum.  A third of them said that they were sometimes using social media at school.  One-sixth also shared that they were using social networks to communicate and connect with students.  And a few responded that they cannot access social media in the work place, either because their school blocks the sites or the country in which they are teaching is blocking the site.

Many of us connected teachers are now, with the help of social media, creating Personal Learning Networks (PLN) where we find and pass along resources for our curriculum, share tips on unit plans, or get needed advice when faced with unique classroom challenges.

My PLN has provided me with some of the best professional development I get during the school year.  Numerous articles to beef up my knowledge on a wide range of subjects come my way daily through Twitter and Facebook.

The discovery of Erin Meyer and her Culture Mapping has really helped me re-think how I deal with parents and students who come from a different culture than my own.  A tweet leading me to National Geographic’s coverage of the The White War has expanded my knowledge of Austria and Italy’s involvement in World War I.  When needing support on Blended Learning, I have a huge range of teacher friends all over the globe who I can call upon to help me brainstorm ideas for change.  And just today from @Raconteur, I rediscovered an excellent discussion tool, the 6 Hats, to create dynamic and interactive problem solving discussions in my classroom.

I guess really this isn’t a new dilemma. When we have free moments at work, how do we use those moments constructively?  Do we use those 30 minutes to shop online or do we use it to mark papers?  Do I go to the library to look up that voter statistic from 1932 or do I just go to twitter where I know @activehistory just posted it?  If I use my time legitimately to work, then what is the problem?

Maybe I need to model this kind of work with social media for my own students.  Once in a while I might need to take them on a trip to Twitter-land to help them discover the marvelous resources available to them.  And maybe if I give them the opportunities to be distracted by social media in the classroom, they will actually learn how to use social media as a tool rather than a distraction in the future.

What do you think? Is it ok to use Social Networks while at work? Or do you think the workplace/classroom should be free of this digital distraction?

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20 replies

  1. I tweet inbetween lessons, during my lunch hour, whenever. And it’s always about educational stuff. The school even has a shared Twitter feed (@istlive) where we share goings-on around the school on an ongoing basis. I’m glad I work in a place where the benefits of social networking for professional purposes are welcomed and encouraged.

    • When I discussed this situation with my Asst. Principal he said “I think there is something wrong if we are not using social media in the classroom.” I work in a very supportive environment when it comes to technology. But I still worry that my students don’t have the mental grit to have their screen open and use it wisely. They need to be able to be on Facebook for a discussion, yet not get distracted by what is going on in their feed. And thanks Russel for always tweeting, can’t tell you how much stuff I scavenge from what you post.

  2. It really depends…the classroom should stay social networks free unless there is an educational reason to use them. I also see very good reason to block certain internet services on workplaces. The distraction level aside (it seems like it makes no difference if you use your phone or the work computer to connect with facebook, but in reality, the facebook on the computer distracts more because you just “want to take a short look” and you don’t even notice how much time you spend with it, while the phone needs a little bit of extra effort), it is also a question of security.

    Generally speaking, though, I wish people would use their phones a little bit less. Last year I was in the Musical Beauty and the Beast, and there was a technical defect during the performance. The theatre had to interrupt…and in the short time the audience had to wait until they fixed it, a lot of people immediately pulled out their phones in order to check their messages. Why?

    • You have some great observations here. But my classroom is a 1 to 1 laptop classroom. We don’t block sites, so it is important to use social media instead of fight against it. More and more kids will join a work force who will be using them as well. They need to be able to be on the screen and learn not to get sucked down a black hole.

  3. It’s such an interesting debate! I check my emails sometimes in my break, on my phone as the school internet has blocked them. I do get annoyed though at people constantly staring at their devices, especially when they’re out with friends. My reaction to that is always why bother? Wouldn’t it be much easier to simply stay at home and socialise entirely via phone? But then I am a bit old-fashioned, having specialised in 18th-century fiction and all that …

  4. I don’t work in a school, but at my work we’re allowed to use the Internet (including social media) during breaks. As long as the work gets done nobody minds.

  5. “quite engaged in the presentation by participating in the discussion on Twitter” I love that you pointed this out, Kathleen.

  6. Hi Kathleen,

    Social media is important, but it must always be viewed as a form of dialogue, not simply a retweeting of what was said by others, or a condensed version of communication. In honest human interaction and dialogue, communication is a sustained conversation of listening, debating, and challenging a speaker beyond some arbitrary word limit or a forwarding of messages. Additionally, Facebook or other social media that simply provides limited chat or visual images as the means of communication equally hinders the social capacity of individuals.

    When you say “Social Media is here to stay. Like with all new things, we must adapt”, I would be careful, as the history of technology and innovation has often shown the initial benefits long before the long-term negatives appear on the horizon.

    If people are always (re)twitting and viewing Facebook, as a few select examples, what do we miss in the real world? Are we not simply being overloaded with information without context? Where are our social relationships maintained? If they are in a virtual world, why come to a physical space to teach? If they exist in a physical space, why direct attention to a space that limits the power of the physical space? True, a balance can be maintained between these places and spaces, but why do we feel responsible, obligated, driven, curious, required, forced, conflicted, to use these platforms? To connect? With whom and why? Is there an underlying fear, apprehension, questioning, confusion, and anxiety about moving our social capacities and ongoing communication into spaces that are more permanent, rather than places that embody the living moment, where “you had to be there” is the essence of social engagement?

    When Davis writes, “quite engaged in the presentation by participating in the discussion on Twitter”, have we not lost our true capacity to be social, in the sense that the physical space is now seen as a limitation, a hinderance?

    When we move everything online, we lose everything offline.

    As you know Kathleen, I am not against social media and technology, And I support the use of it in many situations, I simply ask what is gained and what is lost, who wins and who loses, who gets a voice and who remains voiceless, is the use of social media a form of equality or an extension of inequality…

    • I know, and I so appreciate your questioning. It helps to keep the discussion grounded. And I think with all things we introduce it is important to ask are we disengaging them when trying to engage them.

      As I stated here, I think it is important that kids are taught how and when to use social media for “work”. If we don’t give them opportunities to use it constructively, they won’t learn how to use it constructively. By this I mean, that kids could be creating their own PLN’s when doing research or working on projects.

  7. I always find these discussions interesting as I am in the absurd situation of being an editor and a community manager…which means a larege part of my job is running two facebook and twitter presences. So basically if I wasn’t on social media all day, I’d be in trouble. Quite the opposite of what most people face in the workplace.

  8. My job is Internet based, but doesn’t include FB as a primary thing, so it’s not required here. Nobody really cares if we use it though, as long as we don’t go overboard. My experiences are not those of someone working in education, though. My girlfriend is not currently on FB, but she told me that if she gets a classroom again, she would probable sign back up. Apparently it’s very good for communicating with a student group.

    As for me, I never talk about my workplace in exposed Internet places like that- I always refer to my current employer as Mr. Company, even when it’s a positive comment. Old habits.

    • More and more I believe that whatever I type on my screen should be what I’m willing to have published in a newspaper. That goes for email, Facebook, Twitter, G+, etc. If any of us were in a position where we were being investigated, my data can be found and mined for information. That is the sad truth.

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