Social media - caring in a shared-world (1): Self & others

How to develop care for others and as well as self-care when using social networking sites professionally

How can academics understand and develop care for others as well as self-care when using social networking sites professionally? This is the first post in the series on Caring in a shared-world  providing insights based on Heidegger’s (1962) shared-world concept.

Martin Heidegger is a German philosopher who dedicated his life to studying the essence of our human being. In his major work Being and Time Heidegger provided a revolutionary perspective on how we may think about our human being. Instead of subscribing to a single world perspective - the world as a single place comprising of people and objects - Heidegger argues that there may be multiple, socially constructed, shared-worlds that are determined and reflected by the ways of being and living.

Likewise, when academics use social networking sites, they may co-exist as parts of the multiple, socially constructed shared-worlds within their social networks. The ways in which academics understand themselves may be based on the understanding of their social network relations, as shown on their social networking sites' timelines. Engagement on social networking sites may reflect how academics see the world and themselves among others who are part of their worlds.

Further, due to our relational existence, care is central to the structure of our being. Care creates the meaning for the existences related to oneself and to others (Heidegger, 1962). Therefore, the way academics are being-there within their shared-online-worlds is denoted by their potential desires and concerns to care for the self and others when using social media professionally.

Desires and concerns to care for others

Heidegger developed the notion that being in the world is characterised by the desires of human beings to care for others and themselves, as well as the concerns they may have for the future. In my research (Sathish, 2019) I conducted in-depth interviews with UK academics and found this to apply to their social media use in a variety of ways. Academics may express their desire to care for others through:

  • caring for the meaning of their posts and how such meaning may be understood by others.
  • not getting involved in inappropriate debates among colleagues.
  • showing their posts and engagement are supportive and empower others, for instance to take the next steps in their career.
  • using social networking sites to maintain old relations while caring for new connections to strengthen their interpersonal networks.
  • joining groups and networks to show care for a cause.
  • truly reading and engaging with post by others.

However, in my research I found that academics social media use may also lead to concerns. Academics may:

  • feel insecure and anxious in the case of negative comments of posts by their colleagues and be worried how such comments may affect their career.
  • have concerns about the potential misunderstanding of their words and the potentially harmful impact this may have on others.
  • be concerned about being bullied or trolled when using social media.
  • be concerned about the protection of their online identity and reputation. They may be:
    • worried that their identity may be harmed due to the inappropriate behaviour of others who may not care.
    • concerned about accidentally harming their university's reputation when engaging with others on social networking sites.
    • observed by others, and potentially feel pressured and anxious about how others may understand their online identity.
  • be anxious that their university monitors their professional and personal social media use and activities. Therefore, academics may be worried that they might face legal actions if the university deems their activities as inappropriate or threatening.

How to care for yourself when using social media

To minimise anxieties and concerns and to maximise the positive impact of their professional social media use, it may be useful for academics to adopt certain self-care strategies. My own research and Cuncic (2021) provides some key recommendations in this respect.

  • Being positive and sharing positive information that may interest academic networks may result in the positive development of academics’ online identity.
  • Appreciate others who care when interacting on social media may form positive online networks and may positively impact academics’ online impressions.
  • Develop an awareness of appropriate and inappropriate content and activities when using social networking sites professionally.
  • Follow your university’s social media guidance and be sceptical and critical when sharing or using content that may affect their online identity.
  • Protect your online identity when making use of privacy settings in their social media accounts.
  • Avoid negative comments, but if you do read them having a strong attitude and clear values may reduce the risk of being affected by them.
  • Interact with topics about which you have sufficient knowledge as this may reduce the risk of embarrassing or inconvenient interactions with others.
  • Like and positively comment on posts of others as a quick way of interacting; it may create greater positivity for the shared-world and others.
  • Realise that it is not a requirement to use social media all the time. It is healthy to take longer offline breaks, such as not engaging for a few weeks or months.
  • Unfollow accounts that appear negative.
  • Avoid using social media for solely consuming information and instead try to develop and deliver creative resources.

In sum

In sum, while academics may care for others and this may positively impact their online identity and their shared-worlds, there are concerns about social media use that may potentially impact negatively on academics’ online identity as well as their wellbeing. Therefore, academics may adopt self-care strategies in order to minimise anxieties and concerns and to maximise the positive impact of their professional social media use.


Cuncic, A. (2021) Mental Health Effects of Reading Negative Comments Online. Available online.

Heidegger, M. (1962) Being-in-the-world as being-with and being-one’s self. The ‘They’, Being and Time.

Sathish, C. F. (2019) Social media usage of academics- Exploring the perceptions of legislation. Unpublished Master of Research Thesis, Sheffield Business School.

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