Monday, February 02, 2009

How not to lose face on Facebook - from CHE

From the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Venting to her friends on Facebook one night, a religion professor at Dartmouth College updated her profile to say that she had just consulted an online encyclopedia entry on "modernity" to prepare for her class the next day.

"I feel like such a fraud," she wrote on her profile. "Do you think dartmouth parents would be upset about paying $40,000 a year for their children to go here if they knew that certain professors were looking up stuff on Wikipedia and asking for advice from their Facebook friends on the night before the lecture?"

Her profile featured other comments as well, including a dig at her colleagues: "Some day, when i am chair, we're all going to JOG IN PLACE throughout the meeting. this should knock out at least half of the faculty within 10 minutes (especially the blowhards) & then the meeting can be ended in a timely manner."


I arrived on Facebook courtesy of recent graduates who needed to keep in touch regarding teaching jobs and, quite possibly, because I was in their address book and they sent out "friend" invitations to everyone there, including old professors like me.

I've also experienced a student using the notes in Facebook as a "rate my professor" venting exercise even though he wasn't even my student but was just passing on what he had "heard". Another student brought it to my attention which meant action had to be taken - esp. when the student pointed out that this was embarrassing to everyone at the university, not just this student.

Most people of "my generation" are on Facebook to keep an eye on their teenage children and others become quite addicted when they find everyone they went to high school with. I found out the hard way that I don't want to know where everyone (all 232 of them) I went to high school with ended up. For me, it's been a less formal version of LinkedIn.

I actually prefer LinkedIn but no one seems to use it nearly as much as they do Facebook.

But I like the sharing features on other sites such as the New York Times that more commonly link to Facebook than to LinkedIn.

The primary rule that the author of this article didn't point out is that it's best to let your student friend you and not inappropriately friend them. And, even with graduate students I would advise caution given that that particular relationship can change in character over time - especially if the grad student gets distracted by their real life or doesn't pursue a research topic in the same way the professor would like them to do.

All in all, it pays to be cautious.

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