3 Reasons you’ll find me on Facebook when I’ve called in sick

December 9, 2013

Recently I received an e-mail from a co-worker that basically said, “Sorry you missed the meeting because you were not feeling well. I see from your Facebook page that you were not too sick to be using social media.”

While the Internet is rife with news articles and cases about people who post photos of themselves partying after having called in sick, there is a counter-side to this argument that employers, colleagues and others might take into consideration:

Status updates can be scheduled.

Hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people use services such as Hootsuite and TweetDeck to pre-schedule status updates, Tweets and so forth. Often the update will be posted with a note such as “via Hootsuite”. The savvy reader will look to see if an update was posted using an automated service.

Earlier this year, I found myself in hospital for a few days, suddenly and without warning. All the while, my Facebook status and Tweets were auto-updating. No one but a few family members and close friends knew I was hooked up to an IV line in a Calgary hospital.

Social media is a mindless activity.

When I’m home sick (legitimately), I sleep, watch TV and yes, I sometimes go to my computer. In today’s digital world, that seems pretty normal, no? You’ll notice that reading wasn’t even on that list. Why? Because for me, social media takes less mental energy than reading a book. That is probably because the kind of books I read tend to have a hefty dose of educational leadership or management theory in them. Reading means I have to turn my brain on. Social media lets me unplug my brain for a while. Clicking “Like” can hardly be correlated to reading (much less writing) a strategic plan, in terms of intellectual activity.

Engaging in social media activities certainly takes less concentration and mental acuity than doing my work. My professional activity usually means my brain is in overdrive, solving problems and processing complex information, including academic, policy and research materials. Saying, “Thanks for the ReTweet” does not.

Social media helps us to feel connected.

Much of my work is online. I teach using e-learning technologies. I consult virtually. I conduct research mostly online. I can go for a week without seeing anyone outside my home.

Let’s face it, when you are sick and feeling miserable, loneliness and feelings of isolation can set in more quickly than most of us would like to admit. Signing in to Facebook or Twitter allows you to connect virtually with friends, family and others you care about — and who care about you. Loneliness subsides and feelings of being disconnected from the outside world diminish. You might even see something that makes you laugh.

Not all employees or colleagues who engage in online activities while taking a sick day are fraudulent, lazy or lying. There is a phenomenon in human resources known as “absence management” that aims to measure and track absenteeism. In some organizations, monitoring employees’ social media channels is increasingly being seen as a valid and reliable manner of assessing genuine illness. Personally, I think it’s hogwash; that is, if the person’s job involves them needing to use critical thinking skills, problem-solving abilities or higher levels of cognition. (Wait, isn’t that most jobs in the 21st century?)

When I work, I go full tilt. I usually have three or more projects on the go at any given time, working with clients in at least two different sites and possibly different countries. I’m consulting, teaching, researching, strategizing, writing or speaking. But when I get sick, I pretty much hit a full stop. I hate downtime and even more, I hate not being there for my students or clients.

There will always be employees who try to abuse the goodwill of their employers, but as we move more and more into the digital world, we still need to put caring for one another as human beings first.

When you see some one online engaging in social media activities when they have called in sick, take a deep breath before assuming they are simply skipping out of work, shirking their commitments or otherwise “crying wolf”. You might even offer a supportive comment, ask if there is anything they need or just say hello and let them know that you are thinking about them.

Consider this: Being hooked up to an IV doesn’t prevent you from hitting the “Like” button on your iPad.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.

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10 Ideas for Non-Profit Facebook Posts

May 7, 2012

I’ve been working with a non-profit literacy group in Calgary who really wants to increase their Facebook and Twitter presence. The group asked me today, “What kinds of things can we post on our Facebook page?” Well, folks, this one’s for you.

  1. A group photo of your staff.
  2. A photo of the building where you are located.
  3. A photo of the materials you use in your program.
  4. A link to an online article about your areas of expertise (Example: early childhood literacy).
  5. A link to an upcoming event or program.
  6. A link to an interesting and relevant online newspaper article.
  7. Links to resources in your field.
  8. Call for papers for an upcoming conference in your field.
  9. Links to other community events related to your work. (Your colleagues will thank you for this!)
  10. A link to your website that showcases a success story of someone who benefited from your programs.

This list is just a beginning. The important thing to to post on a fairly consistent basis, so your online supporters can connect with you on a regular basis.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


21% of employees are Facebook friends with their boss, study shows

February 14, 2012

A recent article in Znet, gives a synopsis of a research study done about employees who are friends with their bosses on Facebook. Here are the highlights:

Sarah Eaton social media speaker Calgary consultant Alberta CanadaThe study was conducted by Russell Herder, who surveyed over 1000 employees in the U.S. in late 2011.

Two interesting points in the article:

Of the 21% of those who are friends with their boss, they are more likely to be younger employees.

Being Facebook friends with their boss leads them to believe it helps them do their jobs better.

In terms of who initiates the FB relationship, 46% of the employees initiated and 38% of the bosses initiated.

Male bosses are more likely than female bosses to connect on social media, the study reports.

The article recommends that companies have a written social media policy governing what the expectations are for all company employees.

Another recommendation from the researchers is for leaders to fight the urge to retreat or over-react to friend requests from employees. Until recently, organizational leaders have often been coached to avoid interacting with subordinates on social media. That is beginning to change as more and more people begin to adopt social medias as part of their social interactions, both on and off the job.

Organizations (that includes companies, non-profits and educational organizations alike) are beginning to see social media for what it is — a means to engage and connect with others.

Are you Facebook friends with your boss?

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


University’s Proposed Social Media Policy Results in Student Protests

October 27, 2011

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently released an article about an article about how a university’s proposed social media policy backfired on them. Reporter Alexandra Rice reports in “University’s Proposed Social-Media Policy Draws Cries of Censorship” that students at Sam Houston State University didn’t take kindly to the administration having access — and editing privileges — to their social media accounts.

The university released a new social media portal called Social Universe was deemed to be a one-stop portal for social media users at the university. The original policy draft indicated that any department or organization  that joined with a university e-mail account would be required to surrender their account passwords to the university, thus giving the university the right to oversee and edit activity on all accounts.

Essentially, this meant that any student, staff, faculty, department or student club with a Facebook, Twitter or any number of other online accounts that was registered with a university e-mail address could be monitored, edited, censored or even deleted by the university.

The students cried censorship. They staged a demonstration against the policy that included a “free speech wall”. That resulted in campus police citing students for creating a public disturbance… a situation which rolled itself into a second “free speech wall” later on.

In my humble opinion, if this university truly wanted to craft an effective social media policy, it would involve its users. By this I don’t just mean having reps from the student union sit on a committee, but I mean a large-scale public conversations over a period of time with all social media users at the institution.

Writing social media policies is tricky business. As this university found out, social media belongs to its users, not any one service or organization.

Policy makers are used to having all the authority when it comes to developing procedures, processes, and behaviour guidelines. Social media, social networking, flash mobs convened via Twitter and text and other forms of social interaction using technology have changed all that.

Power to the people has a whole new meaning in the era of social media. Policy-makers need to involve people, not tell them what to do. The old ways aren’t working any more, so find new ones that will.

Related article: Anatomy of a social media policy

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


US Teacher loses her job, then her court appeal, due to Facebook

October 12, 2011

In 2009 someone sent an anonymous e-mail to the school district in Barrow County, Georgia, USA complaining about the Facebook page of teacher Ashley Payne. The teacher’s Facebook page showed her drinking while on a trip to Europe. One news report states that out of more than 700 photos, approximately 10 showed alcohol.

Other news reports state that Payne did not allow her students to be her friends on Facebook and that in none of the photos does she appear intoxicated.

Long story short, Payne was offered a choice by the principal of the school where she worked: resign or he would refer her case to the Professional Standards Commission and she would possibly lose her teaching license.

In a panic, she resigned and later tried to appeal the situation through the Georgia court system, with the help of her attorney, Richard Storrs. They lost.

  • Does your school or organization have a social media policy for its employees?
  • Do you what restrictions or limitations (if any) your employer has around employee behaviour on social media?
  • How much stock can an employer put into “evidence” found on social media?

These are some of the questions I’ve been working through with a new client. I’d be interested to hear your thoughts.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


The Best Time of Day to Tweet, When to Post to Facebook and other Social Media Insights

September 25, 2011

KISS Metrics has done some serious research into social media. Their stats are for the U.S., but they make those of us in Canada and other parts of the world think about when we tweet, too. KISS metrics notes that nearly 50% of the US population lives in the Eastern Time Zone. If you add in those who live in the Central time zone, you get to 80% of the population.

So what? For maximum effectiveness, post to Twitter and other social media when people in the Eastern and Central Time Zones are likely to be on line.

Top Facts about Twitter

If you want to be re-Tweeted, the best time to Tweet is 5:00 p.m. Eastern Time. That’s 3:00 p.m. for those of us living in Calgary and other parts of Alberta. Figure that out in your local time zone by converting the time at TimeandDate.com.

If your purpose isn’t to be re-Tweeted, but rather to have followers click on your links, the statistics change a bit. The report says that the highest click through rate (CTR) is noon and 6:00 p.m., Eastern time.

How often should you Tweet if you want people to click through to your links? Survey says… 1 to 4 times per hour. The click through rate (CTR) is apparently highest for those who Tweet their links every 15 to 60 minutes. If you tweet links more than 4 times per hour, your followers are likely to become numbed to your barage of Tweets. Personally, I never Tweet with links that much. I guess I need to start Tweeting more!

KISS Metrics2

People are most likely to click on your links mid-week and on the weekends. That is when the click through rate (CTR) is highest.

Top Facts about Facebook

The best day to share on Facebook is Saturday. That’s when the most sharing is done. This offers good food for thought for companies, schools and non-profits who only share on Facebook during the work week. Maybe it is worth using a tool such as Hootsuite to schedule your FB updates so you are sharing when employees are off the clock.

And if you’re wondering when on Saturday (or any day) to post things that are most likely to be shared, the best time of day to post on Facebook is at noon.

If you have a Facebook page, the KISS metrics show that one post every day will help you build the most “likes”.

Check out the full post by KISS Metrics.

So, what’s the moral of the story? Use social media regularly and consistently, but don’t jam it down anyone’s throat. Share information when others are likely to share your links. Pay attention to when people are on line and post at times when your links and “shareables” are likely to be seen.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


6 Things You Probably Didn’t know About Social Media and the WWW

September 23, 2011

Did you know…?

In 1978 authors Roxanne Hiltz and Murray Toroff envisioned a future in which computer-mediated communication (CMC) would have a major effect on people’s every day lives. Their book,”The Network Nation”, is published by MIT Press in Cambridge, MA. It has been updated and revised since its original printing and is now considered a classic book in the field of CMC.

In 1992 the World Wide Web was officially launched to the public. (Can you believe that the Web is only 20 years old?!)

In 1997 SixDegrees was established as the first social networking site that most resembles the sites we use today, but users were skeptical and reluctant to interact with strangers. The company was sold in 2000 and today many people believe that the original company was too ahead of its time.

LinkedIn was created in 2002 and publicly launched in 2003 (before Facebook!)

In 2004 Facebook was launched.

Two years later, in 2006, Twitter was launched.

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Update – January 2018 – This blog has had over 1.8 million views thanks to readers like you. If you enjoyed this post, please “like” it or share it on social media. Thanks!

Sarah Elaine Eaton is a faculty member in the Werklund School of Education, University of Calgary, Canada.


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