It is possible to engage in social networking in person. However, in today's world, social networking is more popularly done online, on networks such as Facebook and Twitter. Social networking in person is limited by geographical boundaries, because of which only a few people can interact; on the other hand, there are millions of individuals available to interact with on the Internet. These individuals are looking to interact with one another, and share their experiences about various activities, whether it is cooking or hiking up a mountain. Social networking allows individuals to make friends in other regions than theirs, which introduces them to a new culture and people.
From a business point-of-view, social networking has revolutionized trade as now suppliers and buyers from different parts of the world are able to interact with each other, and form profitable business relations. Apart from friendships and business contacts, social networking has also influenced the relationships between employees of an organization as their personal and work lives collide in cyberspace.
Malaterre, Rothbard, and Berg (2013) state the following in their study:
As employees increasingly interact with their professional contacts in online social networks that are personal in nature, such as Facebook or Twitter, they are likely to experience a collision of their professional and personal identities unique to this new and expanding social space. (p. 1)
The use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter has made the world increasingly connected. Employees are now interacting more with their supervisors, colleagues, and other contacts. This interaction, and the intermingling of their professional and personal lives has opened up doors for new opportunities, as well as challenges. Employees have to struggle to maintain their respect in the workplace after having interacted with their business contacts on an informal level on social media. While interacting in person, sharing experiences and receiving feedback are limited to a certain audience, whereas, on social media, an employee's experiences are disclosed to a wider audience, and thus varying opinions.
According to Maslow's theory of hierarchy of needs (1943), after the necessities of an individual are fulfilled, he requires the respect and approval of his fellow beings for an increased self-esteem. People engage in a certain profession so as to be recognized by people. This also gives them a sense of achievement. A certain level of self-esteem is important for every individual to go forward in life. Social networking has brought the details of an individual's life to a broader audience, which can either present opportunities or challenges. An individual's personal attitude and professional attitude are much different from each other. However, as they mingle on social media now, employees have to struggle to keep a balance.
Malaterre, Rothbard, and Berg (2013) have focused on respect and liking as important elements of professional relationships; it is these two elements that tap into competence and warmth, which people use to form judgments about others. Moreover, these two elements are desirable and essential in organizations for performance evaluation, teamwork, and other such outcomes. Self-disclosure on social media can greatly affect the liking, respect, and judgment people have about an individual. Because of this great effect that social media interaction has on individuals, it can help or hurt an employee's professional relationships, career, and progress.
Wilson, Gosling, and Graham (2012) wrote a review on a Facebook-related research, which states that an individual's Facebook profile can affect the decisions of a company when it comes to hiring. For example, a person whose Facebook profile discloses his family-oriented attitude is more likely to be hired than a person whose profile discloses his fondness of drugs and partying. Social media is affecting people more than they can imagine.
Employees need to form boundaries if they want to keep their work life separate from their personal life. In offline conversations, individuals can tailor the information they reveal about themselves. In online social networks, an individual's contacts are flooded with a load of information about him/her, which is not tailor to a specific contact. The information is for all to see, and might contain details that the individual does not want to disclose to his/her professional contacts; this can pose a problem. That is why individuals need to establish certain boundaries to avoid such problems. On one hand, there are individuals who want to keep their work and personal life separate for which they take certain measures, such as creating different profiles, or using different social networks for a different group of contacts. Such individuals are conscious of how other people see and judge them; they want to be respected and liked, because of which they tailor the information they reveal about themselves. On the other hand, there are individuals who do not mind intermingling their work life with their personal life. Such individuals might not be conscious of their image in the eyes of others, because of which they do not form any boundaries.
In the older days, people had a diary with a lock in which they would write down their feelings and opinions. To keep it more secure, they would hide it under the bed. In the digital world of today, there are no more locks, and our opinions and feelings are visible to a wider audience.
The blogger John Grohol (2005) wrote the following in his online blog:
"In the late 1990s, the head of a large Internet computer company made the statement, 'Privacy is dead, get over it.' There's some truth to that statement, that in order to ensure one's privacy, one should never make a single public utterance or statement. For absolute privacy, say nothing online."
With Facebook and Twitter, there are constant status updates, and location updates, and various other updates that are visible to a wide audience. To minimize the negative impact of these updates on their work life, employees and employers alike need to be careful when posting online.
According to Bowles (2013), the Internet is a great platform whose positive aspects far outweigh the negative ones. The Internet provides a platform, not just for individuals to post their status updates, but also for groups and activists who are working for a beneficial purpose. Similarly, if there is a group working for something that might be offensive to another, the Internet can be used to stop the group from working towards their offensive objective. The Internet provides a large audience that can be made aware of a particular issue, or steered in favor or against a certain cause.
Facebook is an informal social network where family and friends can share and discuss their opinions, feelings, thoughts, ideas, or simply hang out with each other. For business purposes, the Internet is equipped with another social network, LinkedIn, which is specifically used for an individual's professional circle. An individual can communicate with colleagues, as well as friends of those colleagues. From a career perspective, LinkedIn can prove very useful for working people as it gives them a chance to communicate with people from different organizations, or with people from organizations that might hire them. On LinkedIn, professionals can share experiences and tips with each other, which can help an individual in his career. If the web is seen from this perspective then, it is a very useful tool. However, it can have negative effects as well. Individuals who know how to balance and keep their work life separate from their personal life have no issue; however, those who have all their contacts gathered on one social network might be faced with a problem or two. This is because employers now monitor their employees' Facebook and other social network profiles, which might present a challenge or difficulty.
People in certain social network may adopt different roles when working towards a certain goal. They can ask for help from others on how to deal with a problem, and reach their goal. Striving towards goals can lead to learning new things, and innovation. The support of fellow beings in a social network can help to motivate an individual, and increase his/her self-esteem. The emotional and informational support that an individual gets from co-workers and supervisors is essential to his/her adjustment in an organization. An individual can get this support either by communicating in person or by using online social networks such as Facebook, Google+, and LinkedIn. On the other hand, an individual might be faced with opposition. Their opponents might get jealous of their success, and target all their negative feelings toward them. This can affect their working relationship, and give rise to competition.
Westaby, Pfaff, and Redding (2014) stated the following in their study:
"However, some individuals, in response, may post hostile or insulting content about the postings. For instance, this behavior can be seen on various social media platforms, such as when people post hostile or vulgar responses to videos uploaded on YouTube." (p. 5)
The three different studies discussed in this paper are unanimous on the fact that social networking can help individuals in various ways in…