No, really, I’m working
Posted by jripslinger
Kudos to Dave, the professional communicator featured in “Coordinating Constant Invention: Social Media’s Role in Distributed Work,” who ensured the author understood he wasn’t just blogging. He was working. Although Stacey Pigg dedicated a lot of time studying freelance writers, it seemed she also had a hard time associating social media with work. While the technology and the money are present to allow entrepreneurs and freelance writers to make a livelihood with social media, our mindsets are not.
And who can blame us? I’m as guilty as Pigg in that regard. If I see FaceBook or YouTube open on a co-worker’s screen, my first thought is “slacker.” Pigg cited five authors who said, “social Internet use in work contexts is more frequently constructed as ‘cyberslacking'” (Pigg, 2014, p. 73). However, whenever I use social media at work, it is usually for work purposes. I’ve used Facebook to either contact a co-worker or to check the calendar of events at the base gym. I’ve used YouTube to learn how to accomplish tasks in Excel or how to change the combo on a lock.
I understand some of the technical limitations that prevent companies from utilizing social media, but I wonder if that is the whole story or if managers are hesitant to implement these tools due to the stigma of “cyberslacking.” In her article, “Using Social Media for Collective Knowledge-Making: Technical Communication between the Global North and South,” Bernadette Longo (2014) wrote “one area of expertise technical communicators that have traditionally claimed is that of audience analysis and user accommodation” (p. 23). I think most companies try to accommodate their users, but it seems they are slacking in accommodating their employees.
Pigg (2014) could have used the City of Jacksonville as an example of an organization that blocks employees’ use of social media that has “largely negative effects on employees” (p. 73). Toni Ferro and Mark Zachry (2014) also found that 21 percent of all their study participants “reported that their company blocks the use of specific web sites” (p. 13) in their article, “Technical Communication Unbound: Knowledge Work, Social Media, and Emergent Communicative Practices.” Jacksonville’s animal shelter uses Facebook as the primary means to communicate with volunteers and fosters. Therefore, the employees have to utilize their smartphones and often their personal accounts to communicate on behalf of the city. This also makes their personal Facebook accounts subject to the Freedom of Information Act.
I am happy to report that the Department of Defense has recognized the potential of social media platforms and has replicated some of them with the appropriate security considerations. For example, my command uses its Intellipeda page to post our intelligence products. We also use chat/instant messaging, secure VOIPs, and secure video teleconferences to collaborate. For an exercise, we used SharePoint to collaborate, and it worked really well for multiple people to be able to edit products. However, we haven’t transitioned to SharePoint for our daily products. During a different exercise, Bleater (think Twitter), played a large role because all the “players” used it: good guys, bad guys, and bystanders.
Ferro and Zachry (2014) concluded their paper by suggesting teaching students about “services rather than on the sites that now dominate the popular imagination about social media. Students need to learn to communicate effectively through services, not only to operate the sites that are currently most popular in their network” (p. 20). I agree that focusing on what services a particular site can offer, we can help remove the stigma that social media is just a time-waster, when in fact, it can make us more productive.
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