Safe SNS

There’s been quite a bit of discussion on the blog here about Social networking sites and how/if to use them best for youth work and ministry. The overview so far is that they are a great tool AND an obvious point of connection BUT there are some very real boundary issues to consider.
Youth work and Web 2.0 Meister Tim Davies has written a useful paper which I’m reading at the moment.
Here’s the link if you would like to have a read too.
Captain’s log supplemental: Some helpful reflections from Mark Tiddy

17 Replies to “Safe SNS”

  1. Thanks for this Youthblog, really interesting issue, and thought provoking on tims blog, I have posted something on there, because in all the discussions I have had with you, and looking at tims blog, there is another aspect which I have become more andmore convinced about the more I spend time with people who spend time on sns. The issue is that of the inability of those who spend time on sns, to be able to relate in the physical world. They spend so much time in the virtual, that the real, physical world, no longer becomes the primary function of relationships. My own wife spends 4 or more hours a day on virtual sns, and it is so aparant about hwo that impacts how she relates to me, our daughters, and others around her. I have seen it in so many others as well, there is an inability to relate to people emotionally, physically, intemately, patiently even, because all is so instant, so direct, so, immediate, that longevity, depth and consistancy all disappear out of relationships. I have written more on this and posted it up on my website, un the youthworkers network page, it is there for all to read. called it facebook, or faceless, as for me the faceless bit comes in when people aren’t able to relate pysically any more, and the virtual takes over in priority. Up to you blogger if you want to add a link, don’t know how to do that, but if not, then people can visit and go to the youthworkers page.

  2. Thank you for this, it’s certainly a big issue in the church I work at as to whether we should or shouldn’t have young people as ‘friends’ on facebook etc.
    One suggesting currently being thrown around is having a generic account for an organisation to use on something like facebook

  3. I agree with one of Tim’s commmentators that there needs to be a balanced view of risk and opportunity. At the moment I think many people are polarised at one end or the other, depending on their nature.
    Tim’s article certainly gives some interesting views as to how the medium could be used, although his examples tend to be real-world meet-ups. Maybe youth work will become increasingly more virtual – and we need to be prepared for that possibility.
    Just as an example of the future generation coming through: We live in the middle of nowhere and my son doesn’t often have friends round (unlike his sister). He has however organised mass virtual-meetups for half his class on Club Penguin (8 year olds equivelent of Facebook)… which has also made him quite adept at using the phone (to track down those who haven’t shown up).
    What SNS does threaten is friendships based purely on geography, but it does make friendships based on common interest easier to manage.

  4. Ray, what you have written has challenged me a little, because of course something like facebook, or other sns, would be good for those in the middle of nowhere,a dn noone around twho is there age. But I would still be interested in people’s thoughts as to the amount of time people, young and old spend on sns, and what impact that has on their ability to relate physically and socially in the real world.
    I understand and sadly appreciate the comments about things becoming more virtual in the future, but what does that say about our society, and what impact does that have for our physical and intemate relationships, there is certainly polarisaiton on the issue, of sns, i would agree, but virtual relaitonships cannot, surely, replace the importance of real, physical relationships. I have to choose a theme for my disortation for my masters in the next few months, and I am becoming more and more interested in the impact sns will have on our society over these next months and years. it is that or, looking at a case study of a church who have changed their whole outlook on the people around their church, and making themselves much more of a community outreaching church, not put very well, but hope you get the idea, i like the style, and thought that that was what Church may have been about. Just one final question for the mix, where is there a boundary, if at all, between sns, and blogging sites where people can read other peoples comments, post their own, and relate to people that way. Is blogging an aspect of sns.

  5. Hey Ian
    Thanks for blogging this. That particular paper is quite a technical look at Social Network Site Applications for a specific context… the more general stuff which might also be of interest to reader is at (follow link to final report) where we’ve tried to set out a framework for things like friend requests between workers and young people etc.
    This was very much focused on a statutory sector context, and I’m aware things are different in the faith sector. I believe Stewart Cutler ( may well be exploring the faith-based side of Youth Work & Social Networking as part of an MSc.
    Would love to hear your reflection though on any of the papers Ian. Perhaps we should catch up for a coffee in Oxford sometime soon…

  6. Thanks.This is really helpful and the twenty minute presentation by Tim (which is linked)is great.
    I am beginning to think that the virtual world is so central to young people that trusted youth workers should enter the world and work within the virtual.
    But I do also agree with Andy…

  7. Am still pondering the virtual world… observation in the virtual world some young people create a virtual personality which does not reflect their reality ie they feel very low in life but their SNS is upbeat and happy, there is little ‘expression’ of their pain…….this bothers me…I know this also happens in reality…but ‘putting on a face in the virtual’ and not expressing real feelings is part of the SNS process…so is SNS helping to push some young people to the edge? and how as youth workers can we spot the signs and help? SNS are here to stay we all know this… love them or hate them!

  8. Interestingly, Pat, I have also noticed the opposite: Young people who are quite upbeat and happy at youth sessions, but who open up in status updates on SNS.
    As to how we spot the signs and help, I think that the better we know the young person and their family and friends, the easier it is to identify any potential problems. That means being generally observant in both the virtual and the real world and remembering that they have a life outside of the few hours that we normally see them.

  9. Pat, Ray – really interesting points about how young people portray themselves through online profiles & about the hours of youth work. A few thoughts based on some of the research from the Youth Work and Social Networking project:
    >Identity exploration – part of adolescence is discovering one’s own identity – and often that comes about through a process of ‘trying out’ different forms of self-expression with different ‘audiences’ and adapting according to the response gained.
    Social Network Sites are one key environment in which young people are engaging in this exploration of self-expression and identity. Some may be exploring their frustrations, pain and anger at situations – and using the space as an outlet for this exploration. Others may be using their profile spaces to try and explore positive self expression – to see what it feels like to be able to be happy about a situation. (And a young person may shift from one to the other over time…)
    We definitely need to ‘read’ young people’s online self expression in context – trying to understand the purpose of the expression, and the audience the young person is addressing the post to (although often young people* do not have a clear idea, or hold contradictory ideas about the audience they are addressing…).
    Identifying exactly how we best support young people to not be ‘pushed to the edge’ by experiences online (rare but undoubtedly a risk) or to end up confused and facing additional challenges because of the expressions they have committed themselves to online, or because of the way information has been published in a public realm (likely a far more common set of scenarios) is a lot more challenging.
    We do need to help equip young people with critical literacy to better understand their own self-expression online – but this needs to strike a careful balance between discouraging public sharing of information, and encouraging open self expression, rather than the sort of managed ‘putting a face on it’ or ‘self-promoting / advertising’ form of self-expression that Pat’s comment points to occurring.
    >We are working with a ‘constantly connected generation’ – whereas previous generations had times when they were not connected to peer groups – young people with access to technology have effectively 24-7 access to communication with peer groups. Where 2 hours contact with a youth worker may have previously been a significant amount of time (relative to time spent with any other individual or groups in settings outside school) it may not be such a significant amount of time now… But there are big challenges in calling on youth workers to become ‘constantly connected’ whilst still navigating personal/professional boundaries.

    *virtually everything in this post also applies to adults…

    Ian – thanks for starting this blog thread – it’s got me thinking about a lot of interesting issues that we didn’t get into enough in the original SNS papers… I’ll try and capture and blog some of those soon…

  10. Thank you for your responses they are really helpful….
    Its interesting that some young people find the virtual a way of expressing themselves in a more real way and that they can actually in some cases express themselves more honestly in the virtual.My seventeen year old daughter said the same to me earlier today, she felt SNS were very good for shy young people too.
    A couple of other thoughts ….
    I agree that a challenge is to help young people develop their skills of self expression in a virtual world which is more public.Self expression amongst young people is wonderful and I am all for it! I do agree that encouraging development of identity is positive, and I did not intend to suggest young people are deliberately managing and manipulating their images in a self-centered way! I do suggest however it is a consequence of the society around them X-factor,Peter and Katie Price,the wags, football teams etc etc the culture manipulates images… and this is a separate discussion.
    I think there are great positives with the connected society but it is also creating new scenarios ( maybe they are the exceptions)
    Scenario : First month of Uni a student is very unhappy, spends hours on the phone to home, hates the out of control drinking, wants to leave…… but FB expresses photos of a great freshers week,and lots of new friends…..etc etc. Which is the truth?
    And does the reality matter? ..Well not really because she has a close family and boyfriend whom she does really connect with.However it is a bizarre reality.
    I suppose honesty on FB makes her vulnerable after all her friends went to Uni at the same time and they all seem to be settling, at least thats what their photos suggest.
    Another scenario…a relationship breaks…very painful but does it help being able to see how the ‘X’ has a new boyfriend and all the photos of their new social life are on FB? Difficult to deal with ….creating mixed feelings and emotions.So block them another set of dilemmas.
    I am sure there are millions of positive scenarios!

  11. Tim….really appreciate your detailed response..its given me much to think about!Infact I would very much like to attend one of your workshops/training,to learn more about the virtual, the challenges and the opportunities.

  12. Ian,
    I wonder if at one of our network meetings we could spend some time exploring this subject.
    I think being observant and knowing the family is a good way of trying to help. Thank you for this.
    I promise I will shut up now!
    Lastly…’IT Crowd’ very funny episode on ‘Friend Face’.

  13. Maybe if you are going to invite tim to one of your network meetings, you could then post any further discussions or thoughts up here, so that those of us who ain’t in the network can be involved with any further discussion.

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