The blurred lines of Social Media


I love this song. And I hate this song! When I first heard it, I was listening to it in the background whilst I was doing other things, and thought it was toe-tappingly fantastic. The next time I heard it, I actually started listening to the lyrics and began to get disturbed and then horrified. The feminist media and blogosphere were the first to brand it a “rape-song”  that does nothing to encompass the importance of consent in sexual activity.  But the fall-out was not limited to the left-field of bloggers and the mainstream media soon joined in with their own toned-down versions of criticism, especially when Miley Cyrus jumped into the fray. Some institutions such as UCL actually went as far as banning the song, as reported in The Guardian. But the final straw for me was having to find an age-appropriate way to tell my 9 year old daughter why I did not want her singing, “You know you want it……’cos you’re a GOOD GIRL!” at the top of her lungs. There are some lines that can be blurred, but No Means No is not one of them.   But as I was reading and doing my explorations into the different forms of social media this week, I began to feel that a major part of the success of the internet and social media in particular is due to the way that it blurs lines.



In Here Comes Everybody, Clay Shirky details how the power of the internet comes from fact that there is now no line between publisher and journalist, or media producers and consumers. This has led to the wonders of things like Wikipedia, but has also led to the rise of cyber-bullying and teen suicides linked to social media. From this I have come up two important tips about navigating your personal and professional interaction with social media:

1) Be flexible


2) Know your boundaries


Be flexible:


Photo from iStock

The way you view your interaction with social media as an organization or as an individual may change with time. This can be due to changes in the technology, or changing needs of your organization. I never really felt the need for a LinkedIn account as an academic scientist. Very few of my colleagues used it, and it was not a useful networking tool in my work environment. I created an account a couple of years ago mainly because I just thought I should have one, but I did very little to develop my profile or use it in any way. I primarily linked to friends who sent me requests and did not think of it as a way to network in my professional life at all. But then I decided to change careers. When digging into the connections I had made on LinkedIn, I suddenly realized….hey, the dad of my son’s friend, he works in public health policy development….and the woman I served with on the PTA at school, she works for the City of San Francisco Public Health department….etc, etc. I had the beginnings of a network that I never knew I had, and after this course in Innovations in Health Media it will have grown into a healthy ecosystem of its own.


Know your boundaries:

While keeping in touch with all the new forms of digital media that develop, it is also important to know your personal boundaries. Know what you want to share and what you don’t. There are two main ways to manage your personal and professional information. First, you can keep the form of social media you use for different areas of your life as separate entities. An example of this is keeping Facebook just for friends and LinkedIn for professional connections. This is the cleanest, safest way to do it – but limits the kind of flexibility that I talked about above. Second, get to know and use the management tools within the platform itself.

An example of this is making use of the list management in Facebook to separate out different groups within your friends, like this:


The ability to use this kind of management tool and the awareness of the reach of social media is becoming an increasingly important professional skill. If you are applying for a job and the person you are interviewing with goes to your Facebook page and sees it is open, public and has questionable content there is little chance you are going to be seen in a good light. The flip side of the coin is that if ever in an interview, anyone asks for your Facebook password so that they can check out your account you should always politely decline. Some boundaries are flexible, but for others No ALWAYS means No!


3 thoughts on “The blurred lines of Social Media

  1. Rachel, I completely agree with you about the need to keep a separation between professional and personal life on social media sites. These types of boundaries are so important, in order to maintain professionalism and privacy.

    • Rachel, excellent post! I personally find it challenging to find the appropriate boundary between professional and personal. And, with the increasing presence of social media, I find that even some professional accounts on social media platforms like Facebook have surprisingly casual flavors – and this is socially acceptable. My own experience includes texting my coworkers and colleagues, when previously I would have written a letter or used email – so formal grammar is out the window. Great post, gave me lots to think about!

  2. Rachel, Distinguishing between navigating personal and professional interactions in social media is crucial in successful utilization of social media. We hear stories how some people destroyed their careers by not understanding this difference. I really liked your blog.

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