No, really, I’m working

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.

Posted on October 1, 2017, in Social Media. Bookmark the permalink. 7 Comments.

  1. “If I see FaceBook or YouTube open on a co-worker’s screen, my first thought is “slacker.””

    Whenever I see my coworkers looking at Amazon or other unrelated work tasks my first instinct is always to sarcastically exclaim how busy they seem. But of course I do this too multiple times a day. Maybe social media is the new smoke break, but why does it feel so much worse?

    I agree, companies need to work more to accommodate their employees rather than worry about restricting them. It feels as though they often make blanket assumptions about internet usage to be on the safe side. Maybe this is more commentary on out of touch executives. I wonder, if workers are more relaxed and feel more connected to their family even when they are at work, how will this affect the quality of what they do? Or am I being too naïve, because of course there will always be people who take advantage of a privilege?

    Thank you for your post, I enjoy thinking we will someday overcome the stigma surrounding social media in the work or education.

    • I agree. I think “social media” breaks feel worse because it’s easier to get sucked in. I’ve never been a smoker, but the most I’ve seen people smoke on a break is two cigarettes.

    • Not sure about Facebook, but something I’ve been surprised by is people who use YouTube as their source of music! Rather than Pandora or Spotify, I’ve had so many undergrads tell me in their social media logs {i can share this assignment with anyone interested} that they’ve listened to new albums on YouTube. Not even the video, tho maybe lyric videos? Do any of you do that?

      I mention this is because more and more my aim is never to judge how anyone uses their time. When it comes to students distracting others with what’s on their laptop screen, that’s another story, but putting so many restrictions on search and use don’t really get us anywhere.

      • Actually, yes, many of my co-workers also use YouTube to listen to music while at work. Although, some of them use YouTube to … uh, not work as well.

  2. I think the main reason the author did not see Dave’s blogging as work was that he was not getting paid directly for it. She did not recognize that Dave was conducting his own content marketing campaign, developing his online persona and establishing ethos to attract future work. Dave may not have been able to articulate that, but he was doing it. Companies that use content marketing use it to build relationships, not for immediate financial gain.

    • Thanks for your insights, Dan. I probably would have done the same thing as the researcher. The Internet and apps have made it possible for a lot more people to work as freelancers and contractors, so the idea of “work” is certainly evolving.

    • Well said, Dan!

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