ideas, innovations and apps for social work in the age of smartphones and social media 

The blurring distinction between online and offline identities | Just do it! Social media in the workplace


by Ian Watson,

This month saw the publication of a really excellent report from the Government Office for Science (Foresight Future identities. Changing identities in the UK: the next 10 years) that should be read by anyone (especially senior executives, IT managers and data security managers) who still thinks that social media and social networking are remote and separate from daily work and life.

In essence the report notes that people are becoming more engaged in online networks, are working out how to manage their online identities, and can switch seamlessly between multiple identities. Public policy and public services have to take account of this rapidly changing world.

Here are a few snippets:

  • Sixty percent of internet users are members of a social network, compared to 17% in 2007.
  • Transitional life stages are defined by attitudes and roles, rather than age.
  • The boundaries between social and work identities are becoming blurred.
  • People are accustomed to switching seamlessly between the internet and the physical world, and use social media to conduct their lives in a way that dissolves the divide between online and offline identities.
  • A critical issue will be to ensure individuals have the knowledge and understanding to take control of their online identities and to be aware of how their online presence could be used by others.
  • Policy making will need to be iterative, adaptive, nuanced and agile, taking into consideration the multifaceted nature of people’s identities.
  • The UK needs to be considered as as much part of the virtual world as a real place

Faced with this evidence of change, why do government departments, local authorities and third sector organisations still routinely block access to web sites on the basis of increasingly irrelevant categorisations (a video streaming site – we don’t allow that; a social network – very dangerous; what, you want to put buttons on your browser and make it do what you want? – never!)?

Instead of tying up skilled and digitally literate IT staff in blocking (and then unblocking on request) access to the internet, why not redeploy these people to help the organisation develop the skills necessary to engage in the networked world?  In the absence of such engagement, the organisation’s clients may come to see it as irrelevant. Or staff (with their multiple identities and digital literacy learned at home) will simply start bringing their own devices, perhaps causing more headaches for the data security manager, or perhaps making him/her irrelevant.

via The blurring distinction between online and offline identities | Just do it! Social media in the workplace.


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Lutz Siemer

Lutz Siemer

Education, Research & Development in Social Work & IT After working as an alternative practitioner and psychotherapist in private practice for nearly ten years I stepped over to higher education in 2005. At Saxion University of Applied Sciences I lecture and do research and development in the area of Social Work, Psychology and IT. Currently I'm focussing on merging mobile technology and social work.

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