Online professionalism and Facebook – Falling through the generation gap

Via a tweet I found this recently published article:

Osman, A., Wardle, A. & Caesar, R. (2012) Online professionalism and Facebook – Falling through the generation gap. Medical teacher. Available online at:

Although the survey reported is about medical professionals a lot of the findings are comparable across other disciplines and their conclusions are worth sharing with anyone interested in digital readiness:

“Professionals lack awareness of their professional vulnerability online. They are not careful in restricting access to their posted information and are not mindful that the principles of professionalism apply to SNSs.”

At the heart of all such conclusions must be the fact that nowadays your identity is made up of how you act in face-to-face situations and how you act online, it is not possible to draw a fence around one and say that is different.

So if we think it is important to educate our staff and students about professionalism we shouldn’t separate out “online” and leave it to be dealt with separately, later or not at all.

We should also remind them it isn’t possible to draw complete bounds between our professional identities and our private ones.

Multiple identities

About Shirley Williams

Shirley Williams is a National Teaching Fellow and Professor of Learning Technologies at the University of Reading. She is involved in a number of research projects related to learning technologies, communities, social networks, Digital identity and knowledge transfer. She also enjoys reading and cooking.
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3 Responses to Online professionalism and Facebook – Falling through the generation gap

  1. A nice article Shirley. I would add to this that it is naive of people to think they can keep total control of their online presence. There are many public occasions when individuals can be photographed and those images put on the web without the need for permission to be granted. Students growing up with Facebook will often have much of their social life pasted in to Facebok and this can lead to sponsorship – Red Bull for instance Sponsor students to act as reps based on having the right ‘fit’ the the brand. An active Facebook presence can be part of that. However we don’t yet know whether people will regret their web archived social life 20 years on when they are going for that top job, nor do we know whether such coverage will be so universal that it will just be accepted that ‘private life’ is not private any longer and things that now would be considered inappropriate will seem just as silly as the Victorian idea of covering naked table legs.

  2. maureen says:

    I find the concept of the absence of privacy incomprehensible. We all interact differently with different people. It is only as my children have become adults that I begin to share previously private aspects of my life with them. Similarly, while I have a number of intimate friendships which have developed over time, I have shared different levels of ‘private knowledge’ with each friend. Alistair Culham mentioned the BBC Radio 4 programme The Digital Human, in an earlier blog. I caught about half of Episode 3 the focus of which was: What is the biggest threat to our privacy: governments, corporate entities or our friends? And do people have different attitudes towards privacy depending on their culture?
    Really thought provoking and worth a listen.
    This is my first foray into blogging (if that’s what I’ve done), so apologies for any social networking gaffs.

  3. Shirley Williams says:

    Welcome to the world of blogging Maureen.

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