New Book – Social Media in Social Work Education

Putting the social back into social work and social media


Recent media reports have highlighted sharp increases in the number of police investigations into cyber abuse, much of which occurs via social media, particularly Facebook and Twitter.

When social work hits the headlines it too is frequently associated with different forms of abuse. From such reports it may appear   that the social aspect of both social work and social media has disappeared, leaving instead exploitation, cruelty, greed, manipulation and other forms of ill-treatment which humans are capable of perpetrating against one another.

My own experience of both social work and social media, however tells a different story – one in which people communicate well , share information and time and frequently go out of their way to answer requests and to help people. This is a very different account from the risk avoidance and suspicion which so often surround reporting of both social work and social media and whilst I would never seek to deny these dangers, it is important to celebrate the human connections and possibilities offered by both.

In my chapter within the forthcoming book, ‘Social Media in Social Work Education’ I have tried to tell a story which does exactly this, by charting my conversion from middle aged Luddite to keen Twitter user with a profound interest in the positive implications of social media for social work practice and education. My chapter describes my reluctant participation in social media, as part of a role within my University Department. This role involved supporting people who may be studying part-time or over long distances and therefore social media seemed an obvious avenue to pursue. I quickly found myself hosting a weekly Twitter chat, before I even really knew how to use the platform myself and from my initial position of deep suspicion, I began to connect with what to my surprise appeared to be actual, real human beings. What’s more, these otherwise unknown human beings seemed both interesting and interested in many of the things which also excited me.

Like the very worst of reformed smokers, I soon became a keen advocate of Twitter, often becoming incredulous when people said they didn’t like or didn’t get on with it. On a professional basis, I have also become very interested in the possibilities which social media brings for breaking down boundaries between people and connecting them in ways which have never previously been possible.

My own experience of participating in this book is a microcosm of this potential boundary reduction. All my co-– contributors are people that I ‘met’ on Twitter and yet, we have joined together to produce this book. Despite my limited knowledge of any of them, I feel connected to them all and part of a small community – #smswe. Moreover, each of the chapters within the book gives a different account of the ways in which communities of social work education and practice can be achieved through creative use of and engagement with social media.

Of course, none of this negates the often widely reported harm that can be done through platforms such as Facebook and Twitter but people intent on doing harm have always and indeed will always find ways of doing so. Social media simply provides another means of achieving forms of harm which people have visited on each other for centuries. Alongside this however, they have also formed communities and supported each other in ways which give testament to the human spirit. This book echoes this by celebrating the myriad ways in which social media can be used creatively to share, sustain and enhance both social work education and practice. Moreover it has achieved this by bringing together a community of authors who themselves met via social media and have worked collaboratively to achieve this result. The book itself is therefore evidence both of what can be achieved through social media and of some core social work values – I feel proud to be a part of the team that helped create it.




July 15, 2014. Uncategorized.

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