What's in a name anyway?

So, online identity has been in the news recently (it's never out though is it?). A famous author has been caught bigging himself up on Amazon, whilst dissing his contemporaries, sockpuppeting was my new word of the week a couple of weeks ago. Whilst that's all a bit embarrassing and childish, it does raise questions about who you are when you are online:

Are you:

  1. yourself - no boundaries between your personal life and your work - one email address, one Facebook, one twitter etc
  2. your job - everything you post is spoken as your job role rather than you - all linked to your .gov.uk account or similar
  3. a mixture - you've got work and personal accounts on all your favourite platforms

I have a suspicion that most people on KHub are in a fourth category - we're such rebels and mavericks! We live in a knife edge world, skirting the boundaries of our employers' IT policies, the T+Cs of the sites we use and our own personal space. Unfortunately, it's more frustrating than exciting.

My question is - do we need some rules, or at least some ethical guidelines?

I'm sure this is relevant to most service areas. In mine, youth work and community work, it's paramount. Young people and adults alike are using social media, and they often expect us to be there too. So, if I want to speak to a group of service users - or more challenging - a single service user, do I;

  1. use my personal voice - a personal account on whatever platform
  2. use my team voice - some kind of group account or page on that platform
  3. use my professional voice - an account created solely for interactions like this

On the face of it, the second and third options seem 'safer' - but are they? For a start if we are using Facebook, having more than one account is breaking their T+Cs. When I raise this at meetings, the argument is often 'you'll never get caught', that simply wouldn't cut it in any 'real life' situation. What about if we have a 'team' account? doesn't that mean that the service user has no idea who they are talking to?

Even if you are using a platform that allows multiple log in, what rights does the service user have to know who is speaking? On the phone, when a member of the public phones a service, it is normal practice for them to be able to ask who is talking - do the same rules apply online?

But that first option - using my personal voice - even without the child protection issues in youth work - do i really want to share everything with service users, or do they really care?

We are living in a world where the knowledge about you, your work and your family is more public than it has ever been - If you've ever looked at the Johari window <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johari_window> it seems that this type of model is broken down by current social media.

I'm convinced there's lots to talk about here and I'd love this to be a start, please leave some questions, some answers or other comments below.

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Leah Lockhart 7 Years Ago
There is so much here, Gavin. Where to begin? These are the things that twist my melon: If some customers/service users are increasingly using social media for interaction with the people in their lives will council workers be expected by the council or their service users to be having conversations online just as they would in the youth club, housing support visit or whatever it might be? And where is the guidance to protect us as employees? Should there be any or do we apply existing guidance to social media? Some of our customers might not be so hip with online privacy or indeed appropriate interaction online. What would I do if some kids at the youth club told me Jimmy is planning on scoring some crack this weekend or he's been bragging about being involved in a local crime and they know because it's plastered all over his Facebook page? Jimmy doesn't have a locked down account. Do you go and have a look? And how is that different to overhearing Jimmy talking about these things? I think the issue with identity is complicated because there is no one answer but lots of different ones depending on how an organisation works. For example a lot of customer service interaction I have with businesses on Twitter will deal with me through a corporate account but will indicate who they are as an individual. Could that be a solution for some of the identity issues? You're a corporate account but a person dealing with that individual enquiry.
Lesley Thomson 7 Years Ago
It's difficult, no question about that. This online stuff is still pretty new and we're all still finding a way through it. I blogged about conflicted identities from the civil service perspective a wee while ago. On my professional, non official blog, which can sometimes (not often) get a bit personal :) I was mainly making the point that you can have all the policies and guidance in the world, but many things impact on the way people use social media and the boundaries are going to continue to be blurry for sometime. We're about to launch (I hope) a social media policy for the Scottish Government - but are having to acknowledge that we can't necessarily provide all the answers. And that there may not yet be answers to some of the questions people are likely to have.
Gavin Crosby 7 Years Ago
thanks both: Leah, the issue of snooping on clients is another big issue. at least with twitter and G+ you can be followed but not follow someone back - that at least means that you would have to go hunting for info, rather than it appearing in your timeline directly. Lesley, that's a great blog, wish i'd read it before mine! but anyway, though this works for you, you seem to have effectively banned yourself from using SM in a personal context? I dont' think that would work as a policy. The civil service is perhaps unusual, in that even before SM you had similar issues of work taking precedence over play. Personally, I make the odd overtly political tweet, and I would be disturbed by any moves from my employer to limit this. My main problem is that my friends and family don't really need to know that the latest CLD guidance have been released, but likewise my work contacts dont need to know that I'm having cake with my daughter - at the same time i'm reluctant to separate my twitter feeds as it feels a bit wrong to do so.
Leah Lockhart 7 Years Ago
I agree, Gavin, that managing separate Twitter feeds (or whatever your social media platform of choice is) would seem wrong/weird and on a practical level it might be difficult to manage but I also know a lot of people do keep separate accounts. My Twitter is a big mix but because I started using Twitter for professional reasons it tends to be heavier on knowledge sharing about web and social media stuff with a smattering of puppy updates and rants about buses. The way I see it is if someone who is following me gets annoyed with my bus rants they can just unfollow me. If someone did unfollow me (I don't keep track but there are tools to help you see if someone has unfollowed you) and if we have an existing professional relationship there are other platforms on which connecting and conversations can happen.
Gavin Crosby 7 Years Ago
that's right Leah, perhaps it's my own problem that stops me having more than 1 twitter. There's several hugely popular spoof or other twitter accounts, and I wouldn't want to suggest that that wasn't an appropriate use of the medium, one that perhaps stands out is FEMINISTHULK, righting wrongs with a good grasp of theory, irony and a sense of purpose and fun an interesting interview with the writer here: http://msmagazine.com/blog/blog/2010/06/07/feminist-hulk-smash-exclusive-interview-with-ms/ quote: 'While I wonder if Feminist Hulk might attract people already familiar with theory, the possibility that Hulk might be making ideas like gender performativity more accessible is awesome! I think it also says a lot about our attitudes toward theory when a big green dude smashing sh** is the less intimidating option. ' (my bold) this is important for identity as it shows that the messenger as well as the message are important - we know that already of course, but social media is a new area for us to get to grips with.
Lesley Thomson 7 Years Ago
Not so much 'banned' myself from using social media in the purely personal context...I'm just one of those rare people who doesn't see a need to (I'm not even on Facebook, shock horror!) But that's not the same as saying that I'm never personal on social media - I do occasionally tweet about personal stuff, for example. And I agree completely with Leah - if someone doesn't like my occasional public transport related rant, then that's fine, then can go follow someone who doesn't have a long commute and every so often wants to let off a bit of steam about [oops, I'm off again :)]. But that kind of makes my point that we are all individuals and the way we negotiate social media will differ depending on our individual circumstances. I have colleagues who struggle much more than I do - because they feel, not unreasonably, that they should be able to completely separate their work and personal lives online. I do worry about people with two accounts - particularly when they think that the second 'purely personal' account allows them to say anything they like. It's not that difficult to link people to accounts (it's happened before) and I'd be constantly worried about accidentally using the wrong account.
Lesley Thomson 7 Years Ago
Here's another perspective from Anna Hepburn (Digital Communications Manager for Social Care in the Department of Health)