Anonymity. Social media allows a certain amount of anonymity, which can act as a powerful buffer against “groupthink.” An example of this could be found in a working group that uses an online meeting system that allows users to contribute their thoughts anonymously. In some cases, such a system increases the truthfulness of the feedback received and prevents “personalities” from controlling the flow of the conversation. Employees with ideas that differ from those who “control” the group can express those views and expect them to receive due consideration. Ideas flourish, and contributions increase.
At the same time, this anonymity allows employees a place to retreat, and creates a space where they can be honest, so that at least in some sense, the rest of the workplace is not seen as a place where employees can be authentic without penalty. Or employees may become overly concerned about the views held by their colleagues and may spend too much time trying to figure out “who said what.”
Of course, many collaborative work systems are not anonymous, but even in such cases employees still experience a sense of distance from their work and colleagues when collaborating remotely, so that there is still likely to be an increase in the diversity of responses received in a social media format.
With respect to identity, employees will find that social media has made them less anonymous inside and outside of the workplace. Primarily because their private lives and thoughts are often on at least partial display through various profiles they share on Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter, and other similar sites.