Juggling Social Roles in Social Media

Browncoat (from show Firefly) polo
Juggling the dual role of worker bee and geek by wearing a business casual geek shirt

Sociology has a concept of us holding multiple social roles. At home, I am both a husband and a father. With relatives, I am a son, nephew, or cousin. At work, I am a supervisee, mentor, subject matter expert, or organization historian. Things get a bit more undefined out in the wider world, but I hold social roles out there too.

Each of these social roles vary in the expectations of behavior. So, our behavior may vary depending on which role we are occupying at a given time. And, even more interesting is when we have to juggle multiple social roles AT THE SAME TIME for the first time. The more experience we attain at doing something, the better we get at figuring out the constraints and minefields in a situation.

The human brain devotes a large amount of processing to managing the information about the behavior of others to determine trust. And also ensuring our own behaviors are trustworthy. (You’ve read my prior stuff on Dunbar, right?¬†1, 2)

Perhaps part of the stress inducing nature of social media is the mixing of these social roles? A giant social network like Facebook means having a variety of relatives, coworkers, and friends mixing in the same spaces. People who come from different backgrounds, political viewpoints, education levels, interests, and levels of restraint. Navigating all this probably generates a ton of stress.

If so, then we need more segmentation.

  1. Limit coworkers to more work appropriate social networks like LinkedIn.
  2. Join topic groups and post content related to it there. To talk about politics, join groups that discuss it. (Be careful to avoid echo chamber groups.)
  3. A private place to discuss more openly with friends. Maybe a private twitter account, a private Facebook group, group chat, etc.
  4. A private place to discuss more openly with family.