Another dot in the blogosphere?

Persona approach to social media

Posted on: May 14, 2015

In 2009, I asked my student teachers if they would “friend” their students in Facebook (see this VoiceThread).

Those that said they would recommended maintaining at least two separate accounts: One for personal use and another for professional use. If we can silo your identities, manage multiple profiles fastidiously, and put up with inconveniences, we might try doing this.

The theory seems sound and some might even cite this as a good practice. But we might eventually realize that we are lying to ourselves and setting unrealistic examples.

Why do some teachers still recommend split social media personalities in the first place?

A. A teacher or an educator is subject to higher standards than most. This is a fair expectation given that they deal with children or are in positions of influence and authority.

B. To this day, most educational institutes have strict social media usage policies and might even have codes of conduct to regulate behaviour. This is not fair given that the assumption is employees cannot be trusted and/or will do something wrong.

Combine A and B and you C why having different social media profiles in the same platform (e.g,. two Facebook accounts) seems to make sense. The professional (and often dry, humourless) account is used for work or official purposes.

This lie can easily catch up with us. Try juggling more than one account and we will invariably post something by mistake to the wrong account. We are human after all.

We are not only flawed, we are also complex. One person is many things to different people. For example, a person may be someone else’s parent, child, mentor, mentee, boss, employee, leader, follower, friend, enemy, etc. We can choose what to project and what to protect.

We can choose to be personal and professional, particularly with a platform like Twitter. Educators who flock to Twitter and persist with it learn how to balance their personal and professional personalities there. This tends to happen because they are learning in the company of mostly strangers.

On the other hand, a platform like Facebook favours the curation and collection of family and friends. Teachers avoid using Facebook for teaching or mentoring because they are there to chill out in the company of people they might know well.

(Credit to @hsiao_yun for mentioning something along the lines of: Twitter is learning in the company of strangers. Facebook is relaxing in the company of friends.)

Teachers would rather create another Facebook profile or use a platform like Edmodo for teaching and mentoring. It segments life nicely. Too nicely.

When teachers do this, they often do not transfer what is good about social media platforms. They might focus on worksheets or providing content or demanding answers to questions. They already do this in class, so they transfer what they are comfortable doing to the social media space. They forget to teach and learn by being social.

They forget how people do not need to be asked or forced to share. People already want to share, especially if there is something interesting or controversial.

Relying on split personas reinforces the behaviour of being one person in one place and being another in a second place. If we do this, we might forget that skills in one place can transfer to another, particularly in social media platforms for learning. We might also not learn how to be personal and professional at the same time.

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