Critical conversations: Social workers’ perceptions of the use of a closed Facebook group as a participatory professional space
Keywords:Social media, social workers, professional boundaries, social networking sites, netiquette
INTRODUCTION: The rise of social media has been associated with rapid growth in different forms of digital networking, debate and activism. Many studies have traced the role of social media in mobilising people to take action on shared issues of concern across the world. Yet, while networked public spaces offer many possibilities for professional engagement and interaction, the technology also shapes social dynamics, raising questions over professional boundaries and the nature of online behaviour.
METHOD: The development of a closed professional group on the social networking site, Facebook, provided an ideal opportunity to explore social workers’ perceptions of participatory public space for professional deliberation and debate about public issues. Using a small-scale, case-study approach, group members were invited to complete an online survey and to participate in an interview which explored participants’ motivation for joining the group, the frequency and nature of their contributions, how it felt to be a member and what they valued or found problematic about the group.
FINDINGS: Those group members benefitted from the resources, research and professional development opportunities afforded to them and supported the professional potential and promise of social networking sites. They grappled with what constitutes ethical online behaviour and identified the site’s limitations and strengths as a place to promote robust professional dialogue on social issues.
IMPLICATIONS: Analysis of social workers’ experience within participatory public spaces offers insight into how the profession can develop modern communication strategies and strong communities of practice in line with its professional principles and mandate.
Anderson, A. A., Brossard, D., Scheufele, D. A., Xenos, M. A., & Ladwig, P. (2014). The “nasty effect”: Online incivility and risk perceptions of emerging technologies. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19(3), 373–387.
Ballantyne, N., Lowe, S., & Beddoe, L. (2017). To post or not to post? Perceptions of the use of a closed Facebook group as a networked public space. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 35(1), 20–37. doi:10.1080/15228835.2017.1277903
Boddy, J., & Dominelli, L. (2016). Social media and social work: The challenges of a new ethical space. Australian Social Work, 1–13. doi:10.1080/0312407x.2016.1224907
boyd, d. (2011). Social networking sites as networked publics: Affordances, dynamics, and implications. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites (pp. 39–58). New York, NY: Routledge.
Braun, V., & Clarke, V. (2016). (Mis)conceptualising themes, thematic analysis, and other problems with Fugard and Potts’ (2015) sample-size tool for thematic analysis. International Journal of Social Research Methodology, 19(6), 739–743. doi:10.1080/13645579.2016.1195588
Cooner, T. S. (2013). Using Facebook to explore boundary issues for social workers in a networked society: Students’ perceptions of learning. British Journal of Social Work, 1–18. doi:10.1093/bjsw/bcs208
de Zúñiga, H. G., & Valenzuela, S. (2011). The mediating path to a stronger citizenship: Online and offline networks, weak ties, and civic engagement. Communication Research, 38(3), 397-421.
Dombo, E. A., Kays, L., & Weller, K. (2014). Clinical social work practice and technology: Personal, practical, regulatory, and ethical considerations for the twenty-first century. Social Work in Health Care, 53, 900–919.
Dwyer, S. C., & Buckle, J. L. (2009). The space between: On being an insider-outsider in qualitative research. International Journal of Qualitative Methods, 8(1), 54–63.
Edwards, H., & Hoefer, R. (2010). Are social work advocacy groups using Web 2.0 effectively? Journal of Policy Practice, 9, 220–239.
Ellison, B., Lampe, C., Steinfield, C., & Vitak, J. (2011). With a little help from my friends: How social network sites affect social capital processes. In Z. Papacharissi (Ed.), A networked self: Identity, community, and culture on social network sites (pp. 124–145). New York, NY: Routledge.
Fuchs, C. (2014a). Social media and the public sphere. triple C: Communication, Capitalism and Critique: Journal for a Global Sustainable Information Society, 12(1), 57–101.
Fuchs, C. (2014b). Social media: A critical introduction. London, UK: Sage.
Gerbaudo, P. (2012). Tweets and the streets: Social media and contemporary activism. London, England: Pluto Press.
Graham, T., & Wright, S. (2014). Discursive equality and everyday talk online: The impact of “superparticipants”. Journal of Computer‐Mediated Communication, 19(3), 625–642.
Graham, T., Jackson, D., & Wright, S. (2015). ‘We need to get together and make ourselves heard’: Everyday online spaces as incubators of political action. Information, Communication & Society, 1-17. doi:10.1080/1369118x.2015.1094113
Granovetter, M. S. (1973). The strength of weak ties. American Journal of Sociology, 78(6), 1360-1380. doi: 10.1086/225469
Harbeck-Voshel, E., & Wesala, A. (2015). Social media and social work ethics: Determining best practices in an ambiguous reality. Journal of Social Work Values and Ethics, 12, 67–76.
Jenkins, H., Clinton, K., Purushotma, R., Robison, A., & Weigel, M. (2009). Confronting the challenges of participatory culture: Media education for the 21st century. MacArthur Foundation Publication, 1(1), 1–59.
Joyce, M. (Ed.). (2010). Digital activism decoded: The new mechanics of change. New York: International Debate Education Association.
Julien, C. (2015). Bourdieu, social capital and online interaction. Sociology, 49(2), 356–373. doi:10.1177/0038038514535862
Kaplan, A. M., & Haenlein, M. (2010). Users of the world, unite! The challenges and opportunities of social media. Business Horizons, 53(1), 59–68. doi:10.1016/j.bushor.2009.09.003
Kellsey, D., & Taylor, A. (2016). The learning wheel: A model of digital pedagogy. Hertfordshire, UK: Critical Publishing.
Kimball, E., & Kim, J. (2013). Virtual boundaries: Ethical considerations for use of social media in social work. Social Work, 58(2), 185–188.
Kolek, E. A., & Saunders, D. (2008). Online disclosure: An empirical examination of undergraduate Facebook profiles. Journal of Student Affairs Research and Practice, 45(1), 1–25.
Lambert, A. (2016). Intimacy and social capital on Facebook: Beyond the psychological perspective. New Media & Society, 18(11), 2559–2575. doi:10.1177/1461444815588902
Langlois, G., Elmer, G., McKelvey, F., & Devereaux, Z. (2009). Networked publics: The double articulate of codes and politics on Facebook. Canadian Journal of Communication, 34(3), 415-434.
Levine, P. (2000). The Internet and civil society. Report from the Institute for Philosophy and Public Policy, 20, 1–9. Retrieved from http://www.puaf.umd.edu/ippp
Megele, C. (2014). eABLE: Embedding social media in academic curriculum as a learning and assessment strategy to enhance students learning and e-professionalism. Innovations in Education and Teaching International, 52, 414–425. doi:10.1080/14703297.2014.890951
Mohan, T., McGregor, H., & Strano, Z. (1992). Communicating theory and practice (3rd ed.). Marrickville, NSW: Harcourt Brace & Company.
Papacharissi, Z. (2004). Democracy online: Civility, politeness, and the democratic potential of online political discussion groups. New Media & Society, 6(2), 259–283.
Pink, S., Horst, H., Postill, J., Hjorth, L., Lewis, T., & Tacchi, J. (2016). Digital ethnography: Principles and practice. London, UK: Sage.
Reamer, F. (2015). Clinical social work in a digital environment: Ethical and risk-management challenges. Clinical Social Work Journal, 43, 120–132. doi:10.1007/s10615-014-0495-0
Ryan, D., & Garrett, P. M. (2017). Social work “logged on”: Contemporary dilemmas in an evolving “techno-habitat”. European Journal of Social Work. doi:10.1080/13691457.2016.1278520
Sage, M., & Sage, T. (2016). Social media and e-professionalism in child welfare: Policy and practice. Journal of Public Child Welfare, 10(1), 79–95. doi:10.1080/15548732.2015.1099589
Simpson, J. E. (2017). Staying in touch in the digital era: New social work practice. Journal of Technology in Human Services, 35(1), 86–98 doi:10.1080/15228835.2017.1277908
Sitter, K. C., & Curnew, A. H. (2016). The application of social media in social work community practice. Social Work Education, 1–13. doi:10.1080/02615479.2015.1131257
Social Workers Registration Board. (2016). Code of conduct. Retrieved from http://swrb.govt.nz/concerns-and-information/code-of-conduct/
Steyaert, J., & Gould, N. (2009). Social work and the changing face of the digital divide. British Journal of Social Work, 39(4), 740-753.
Standage, T. (2013). Writing on the wall: Social Media—the first 2,000 years. London, UK: Bloomsbury.
Stanfield, D., & Beddoe, L. (2016). Social work and social media in Aotearoa New Zealand: Educating social workers across shifting boundaries of social work identity. Social Work Education, 35(3), 284–296. doi:10.1080/02615479.2016.1154663
Statistica. (2016). Number of monthly active Facebook users worldwide as of 2nd quarter 2016 (in millions). Retrieved from http://www.statista.com/statistics/264810/number-of-monthly-active-facebook-users-worldwide/
Steinfield, C., Ellison, N. B., & Lampe, C. (2008). Social capital, self-esteem, and use of online social network sites: A longitudinal analysis. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 29(6), 434–445.
Thomas, G. (2011). A typology for the case study in social science following a review of definition, discourse, and structure. Qualitative Inquiry, 17(6), 511–521. doi:10.1177/1077800411409884
Tierney, T. F. (2013). Disentangling public space: Social media and internet activism. Thresholds, 82–89.
Valenzuela, S. (2012, July). Protesting in the age of social media: Information, opinion expression and activism in online networks. Paper presented to The 5th Latin American Public Opinion Congress, Bogota, Colombia.
Varnelis, K., & Friedberg, A. (2008). Place: The networking of public space. Networked Publics, 15–42.
Warren, A. M., Sulaiman, A., & Jaafar, N. J. (2015). Understanding civic engagement behaviour on Facebook from a social capital theory perspective. Behaviour & Information Technology, 34(2), 163–175. doi:10.1080/0144929X.2014.934290
Westwood, J. (Ed.). (2014). Social Media in Social Work Education. Northwich, UK: Critical Publishing Ltd.
Willig, I., Waltorp, K., & Hartley, J. M. (2015). Field theory approaches to new media practices: An introduction and some theoretical considerations. MedieKultur. Journal of Media and Communication Research, 31(58), 1–12.
Wolf, L., & Goldkind, L. (2016). Digital native meet friendly visitor: A Flexner-inspired call to digital action. Journal of Social Work Education, 1–11. doi:10.1080/10437797.2016.1174643
How to Cite
Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:
By completing the online submission process, you confirm you accept this agreement. The following is the entire agreement between you and the Aotearoa New Zealand Association of Social Workers (ANZASW) and it may be modified only in writing.
You and any co-authors
If you are completing this agreement on behalf of co-authors, you confirm that you are acting on their behalf with their knowledge.
By submitting the work you are:
- granting the ANZASW the right of first publication of this work;
- confirming that the work is original; and
- confirming that the work has not been published in any other form.
Once published, you are free to use the final, accepted version in any way, as outlined below under Copyright.
You assign copyright in the final, accepted version of your article to the ANZASW. You and any co-authors of the article retain the right to be identified as authors of the work.
The ANZASW will publish the final, accepted manuscript under a Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY 4.0). This licence allows anyone – including you – to share, copy, distribute, transmit, adapt and make commercial use of the work without needing additional permission, provided appropriate attribution is made to the original author or source.
A human-readable summary of the licence is available from http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0, which includes a link to the full licence text.
Under this licence you can use the final, published version of the article freely – such as depositing a copy in your institutional research repository, uploading a copy to your profile on an academic networking site or including it in a different publication, such as a collection of articles on a topic or in conference proceedings – provided that original publication in Aotearoa New Zealand Social Work is acknowledged.
This agreement has no effect on any pre-publication versions or elements, which remain entirely yours, and to which we claim no right.
Reviewers hold copyright in their own comments and should not be further copied in any way without their permission.
The copyright of others
If your article includes the copyright material of others (e.g. graphs, diagrams etc.), you confirm that your use either:
- falls within the limits of fair dealing for the purposes of criticism and review or fair use; OR
- that you have gained permission from the rights holder for publication in an open access journal.