I’ve never been one for chatting.
During my full-time career, I think I went out to lunch with colleagues about three times in seven years.
These days, I tend to view any moment not explicitly tied to production as a minute wasted–60 more seconds that I’m kept away from my awesome kids.
I love to-do lists, and especially crossing them off.
And, yet, one of the quotes from The Facebook Effect that stuck out at me most is this: “understanding people is not a waste of time” (p. 143).
And that has me thinking about what productivity really looks like, and about the kinds of behaviors nonprofit organizations should reward, and about the proper role of social media in the social work workplace.
Because the truth is, of course, that social workers are not immune to the time-wasting potential of social media. We often need to relieve stress, and a few moments spent in idle browsing can turn into…a few more, until we’ve been distracted from our real purpose.
That’s not just poor time management. It’s unethical social work. We have an obligation to use our agency’s resources wisely, and to keep our clients’ needs foremost in our minds. To do less is to violate a core trust, and to abdicate our most sacred responsibility.
But what about social media usage that connects us more deeply to our constituents, helps us to engage with donors, shapes the nature of the conversation about our issues, and gives us insights into how others view our organizations, and our work?
It’s hard to argue that collecting that kind of information, building those relationships, and broadening our scope of influence could ever be a waste of time.
Even beyond “official” agency uses of social media, I think a strong case can be made for individual social workers using their own connections to engage friends, family members, and colleagues in the quest for social justice, and, indeed, to practice their listening and relational skills in this medium.
When I look back, actually, I think about the relationships that I may have shortchanged with my intense focus on accomplishing tasks. Would it have been easier for me to permeate the organizational culture with an emphasis on advocacy, had I engaged in more relational work with colleagues? Did I ever unintentionally send clients the message that they should “get down to business”, and, in so doing, cut off important relationship-building?
Did I ever make people feel that understanding them was a waste of time?
How do you use social media at work? What dangers do you see, and what opportunities? How do you balance collegiality and productivity? How would our work lives look differently if we valued building relationships as much as accomplishing tasks?