You’ve probably seen the trend in education and training blogs – Use existing social media (i.e., Facebook) to create a collaborative social learning group. So far I’ve found the the overwhelming number of posts from my professional circles share photos of meal they have cooked, restaurant choices, views on sports, family photos and largely uninformed views on current hot topics.
Despite the number of people that merge the two, using social media for learning is not the same as social learning. According to Albert Bandura social learning happens when people observe others and model their behavior on what they see and hear. While much of social learning research concerns observing live people and imitating their actions, social learning also occurs from what one hears about others or sees on media. Bandura proposed that in order for someone to model their behavior on others, there had to be a payoff – something that the others gained – such as acceptance into a group. Also, social learning did not necessarily have to result in change of behavior. (For example, even if I didn’t want to behave like a group I might still want to observe how they act.)
So what does this have to do with learning on Facebook? Do people observe and imitate others based on Facebook posts? Well they certainly imitate the type of content posted. I first created a Facebook page assuming it could be used to communicate with other professionals in education, service groups and creative circles. If someone voiced a concern or grievance there was a lot of sympathy, but no solutions. There were loads of posts were copied but rarely was anything new. Basically, all the personal posts which we expect on Facebook are a reflection of what we want our everyday lives to be. By observing others, we have learned that Facebook is about ourselves and the details of our personal habits. If our lives are boring, we use it to create drama. We would all like to have the kind of creativity and fame in which others follow the minutia of our lives, but since we don’t – there is Facebook.