Learning from others mistakes: how social media etiquette distorts informal learning online.

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Informal learning and information exchange form an important part of interactions between professionals in social media spaces but these spaces also trigger complex performances of self (Goffman 1959, Barbour and Marshall 2012). This paper, drawing upon research investigating the nature and efficacy of collaborative learning between professional participants within social media spaces, expands upon key findings on the roles of self-presentation, and emerging etiquette practices around peer correction. In particular the reported practice of public error addressed by private correction is examined as an important but dysfunctional practice.

This work draws upon Vygotsky’s Zone of Proximal Development and concept of scaffolded learning, and theories of learning through Affinity Spaces. The work is also informed by the researcher’s professional role working with social media and advising on best professional practice in these spaces. The research presented sits within the wider context of emerging research into the changing role of social media in everyday life, including work by danah boyd, Mimi Ito, and Christine Greenhow examining the cultural and educational impact of social media technologies.

The underlying research was conducted as part of a masters dissertation project. Two forms of research data collection took place: self-completion online questionnaires completed by volunteer participants (n=44) in October 2011; and follow-up interviews (n=4) conducted using Skype Chat in February 2012. Volunteer recruitment was through convenience sampling of social media channels, predominantly Twitter.

The research finds that trust and safety are crucial factors in emerging scaffolding practices, with individuals constructing personal rules and etiquette for dealing with the challenges of social media such as blurred identities. However, issues are identified with a particular focus on the problematic emerging practice of providing private steers and corrections arising from public discussions.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of the European Conference on Social Media University of Brighton UK 10-11 July 2014
EditorsAsher Rospigliosia, Sue Greener
Place of PublicationReading, UK
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International (acpi)
Number of pages9
ISBN (Electronic)9781910309285
ISBN (Print)9781910309285
Publication statusPublished - 10 Jul 2014
EventEuropean Conference on Social Media - University of Brighton , Brighton, United Kingdom
Duration: 10 Jul 201411 Jul 2014

Publication series

NameThe Proceedings of the European Conferenceon Social Media
PublisherAcademic Conferences and Publishing International (acpi)
ISSN (Print)2055-7213
ISSN (Electronic)2055-7221


ConferenceEuropean Conference on Social Media
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom


  • social media
  • informal learning
  • vicarious learning
  • Continuing Professional Development
  • social media ettiquette


Dive into the research topics of 'Learning from others mistakes: how social media etiquette distorts informal learning online.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this