Shaping `e` professional identities- Towards an understanding the impact of social media experiences on the professional development of social work students

Sam Miller @Samhudmiller – University of Huddersfield

This empirical study, involving Year 1 social work students at Huddersfield University was born out of concerns regarding the dearth of guidance and teaching around the use of social media, both in terms of their previous and current use, but also in developing a professional identity,  recognising the changing contexts of social media use (from the personal to the student professional). Much of the writing around the use of social media rightly highlights policy, noting the ethical and practical concerns of developing and maintaining a social media presence (most visibly when social workers fall-foul of the HCPC conduct policy). However, studies so far have neglected to develop a more nuanced understanding of how students `use and experience the use` of social media, and the impact upon the more visible aspects of developing a professional identity on-line, and the management of their current friends and family relationships. The data analysis so far suggests:

  1. more support is needed to help students reflect upon their use of social media; past, present and future, in both the professional and `friends and family` domains (for example, closing relationships);
  2. The development of reflective skills and knowledge for the on-line environment is needed to overcome naïve or ambivalent practice: policy alone is not enough.

The emerging picture within the data also indicates that a focus on service user needs and ethical practice is important: the question should be, `how should Social Media and Social Networking Sites be used with service users`, not if. Plans for further student involve following the cohort of current Year 1 students into practice, providing insights into social media use and how this shapes learning and identity on placement, involving qualified practitioners and service users. This work in progress nature of this study will be discussed in the presentation.