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#WFH: Are Social Boundaries Gone in the Virtual Workplace?

Challenging social boundaries in the virtual environment helps to open up opportunities and create insights. We are always being socialized. From the time we are children until the day we die we are subtly being told to fit in. Not surprisingly, social network connectivity has both highlighted and contributed to challenging the validity of many of these boundaries. Professions, communities of practice, online identities and traditional sex, gender, class, culture, ethnic and racial boundaries are being challenged. Appropriate behaviors and norms are being blown away as boundaries break down across contexts and groups. Social and collective identity has been redefined to include virtual environments. Social boundaries, especially online, are crossed constantly.

Social boundaries, however, are more than the big picture. These extend to the way we act and what is socially appropriate to do in a particular social context. Individuals use many of these to include or exclude themselves or others from particular groups. Taken to extremes, these social boundaries help us define what is real. They influence our thoughts and behaviors to such an extent that we come to believe they are facts. Interestingly, the virtual environment has its own very different set of social boundaries. Stalking, creeping, phishing and adapting are all words that have different meanings online. Social boundaries online and off are changing rapidly and being challenged by a crowd sourcing world that is rewriting what is real and what is acceptable.

Many people communicate online in order to get a reaction. They post outrageous comments, send inappropriate emails, or upload immature videos. They act in ways that demonstrate a lack of social boundaries. This is compounded by an online world that stores and manipulates data for sensation. Reputations can be ruined, lives destroyed and hearts broken because someone posted or shared something that is totally inappropriate. If you have ever felt bullied, picked on or like an outcast, you might want to consider setting some social boundaries.

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