I have noticed this trend and it is worth discussing and your question is timely. There are developments in Academia that may not have reached all parts, but it is something that students and academics may need to be thinking about. What follows are my own opinions, but they may illuminate the issue.
A Personal Analysis of Social Media in Academia
There are branches of Academia that study student engagement, student retention, student attitudes and so on. Some for pedagogic reasons, to enhance student learning and to improve life long learning. There is also a trend to do it for fiscal purposes on the basis that the longer the students pay fees the more viable the institution; or sometimes the greater the performance related reward of the leadership.
A common mechanism to gather data on these issues is often in the form of an online students survey. Many institutions request that students complete a survey at the end of every course to gather quantitative and qualitative feedback. For academic management and some teachers an improvement in the nature of the feedback results is regarded as evidence of improvement of teaching and learning.
As announced by the recent Queen's Speech the financial reward to UK universities will be linked to perceived evidence of improvement of teaching and learning.
Those looking at engagement of students have observed that both course materials and communications from the teachers and the institution do not have the primary attention of the students. The thought is that the students are primarily involved in social media, even during taught classes and whilst performing assignments. The belief is that if the course communications came through that social media the attention and engagement of the student would be realised.
The desire to encompass social media in the teaching activity has resulted in the majority of courseware and Virtual Learning Environments including that within their mechanisms. To not embrace social media would reduce the courseware vendors market share. Once it is within the courseware it can become part of the institutional pressure to use it, on the basis of "no innovation" as an analogue of "old fashioned" which is correlated to "poor teaching and learning". There is now a conflict of interest between the use of social media and finance.
Students from school have not built a mature separation between a professional life and a personal life. This maturity comes later; in school socialisation, friendship, learning and assessment go together. It is only natural that when electronic media enters the mix the blurring of the lines remains. Elements of society are becoming aware of the difficulties and risks created by this technology in a school context (sexting, grooming et al) but conversely others are embracing this new vehicle for communication and have replaced books (and sometimes teachers) by e-devices and courseware.
Universities are faced with Freshers that have not yet separated the social aspect of their development from the academic one. It has always been thus; consider the importance of the organisation of Fresher's week events for many learning programmes. We just have the complexity of the blurred lines of social media to add to the mix.
The fast development of the technologies involved has meant that we regularly experience new waves of communication trends whose popularity waxes and wanes. It often moves so rapidly that a medium is defunct before any study of its usage is ever made. I've been using waves of leading edge communication technologies from the mid 1970's. For me there is much deja-vu; I am reminded of Thomas Edison's fascination with the latest media of the day in education. He too though that the embracing of the latest technology would be the solution. I am also reminded of fashionable predictions of how 21st century eduction would be performed using modern media. Each time a new technology becomes fashionable, be it computers, email, web pages, cellular telephony, smartphones, wearable computers or social media they are projected as the ultimate solution to any perceived ills of the education system at any particular time period.
If we combine fashionable technology with immature usage with the belief that "Vox populi, vox Dei" you can end up with a system built on very shallow foundations. One could suggest that the students, as consumers, use it out of inexperience and immaturity and the academics use it for short term gains of engagement or institutional reward.
What can be done?
Those who have evolved to separate aspects of their social and professional life also find that the trend is working against them. The social media providers are moving towards single identities. The trend is to require a single individual to have a single account, in their true name, for example. The trend is for governments to consider regulation in this area to inhibit multiple identities as part of a security agenda. Although some attention is paid to aspects of personal privacy in different legislative domains, there are many trends moving in different directions. Few students and academics have the technical knowledge to use the media in a manner that easily permits the distancing of personal and professional identities.
One needs to develop this technical awareness, because at the moment the tools are working against the separation. One solution is to abstain from social media. If one does not have an account, or social media identity, then you cannot use it inappropriately! The answer to the question "what is your ... ID" the answer always will be "I do not have one". For some the technology is so invasive that they do not even have telephone number. For the majority this would make academic study or teaching an impossibility and a more informed solution would be needed.
Separate domains of operation is a possible method. Consider someone with two locations of operation; lets call them the home and the office. Each one can be equipped with its own devices and its own accounts. One just uses the office computer/phone/device with a work identity at the workplace and the home computer/phone/device with a personal identity at home. If only life were that simple! However, we can use it as a model, even when the lines of work place and time and home place and time might become blurred.
The use of separate devices for separate identities is well known, and from that comes the name burner phone, and even burner app. This can also be done with the internet, by using distinct devices for each identity, or having software divisions between those identities. A software division can be achieved by using separate browsers for each identity (i.e. Chrome for one ID, Firefox for another and so on) or using the incognito (or InPrivate) browsing mode of your browser. You have to be careful though, and know how they work. There is information leakage between different incognito windows!
You may be required use social media in an educational context, even though it may not be your desire to do so and may not always make sense in every situation. One can separate personal and professional identities to protect ones privacy, but an informed knowledge of the internal workings of the technology is often needed to do this satisfactorily.
The suppliers of the media and politically derived regulation are attempting to inhibit the separation as multiple identities are associated with criminal and national security concerns.
You can do it, or not. You are damned if you do and damned if you don't; but at least one should make an informed decision.
I seem to have started on a topic for an academic paper. Damn.