Facebook – the new frontier. Well, relatively new for those who are in the new forty. By young folks’ standards Facebook has almost always been around (how frightening is that notion for folks who have a handful of decades in?).
I came upon Facebook a number of years ago. In the beginning, I visited my Facebook account maybe once a month and posted virtually nothing on it. But over time I got sucked into the social existence that is Facebook. I knew that I had made a fundamental shift in my social networking life a few years ago when I started asking people who wanted to chat more with me about one topic or another if they were on Facebook.
And so it went, slowly but surely I was indoctrinated and before I knew it my big collection of a couple dozen Facebook friends grew to over 300. I now visit Facebook daily – sometimes multiple times a day. It has become a part of my life - my cyber social identity.
Being of the age and past experience to recognize that social connectedness once was at the end of a corded home phone with a parent who could seemingly hear everything nearby, I think I am a more sensible Facebooker than many. I realize that privacy is a misnomer and that what is said on Facebook could be easily displayed on the front page of the newspaper tomorrow. Indeed, that is part of the beauty of Facebook.
Alas, it isn’t like I do all that much self-censoring anyway. I say what I mean and I mean what I say – for better or worse. I think folks have come to expect that from me. In truth, I share more on my blog than on my Facebook and my blog is completely open to anyone. Of course, I sometimes forget this. I have a mental block feature in my brain that allows me to convince myself that no one reads this stuff – that I write and it floats out into the atmosphere unfettered and essentially unnoticed. Over time I have come to realize that is not at all true. I regularly am reminded that the things I write about in my blog are “out there” (and yes, I mean that in all possible interpretations).
So, Facebook doesn’t really scare me and offers no additional sense of protection for sharing private truths; but, I realize not everyone is me. Not everyone started out on a corded phone. So I have a Facebook policy, particularly as it applies to young Facebook users and most specifiically as it applies to my students: I will add students (former or current), but typically only at their request.
There are a few reasons for my Facebook policy. First, I realize that as a faculty member there is potentially an “ishy” factor when a faculty member wants to be your Facebook friend. After all, most faculty have a decade or two on the students and are in their minds – OLD. Second, there is a disparity in the power relationship between students and faculty and students may not feel that there is an option to refuse a faculty member’s friend request. This is a big deal ethically in my view as a faculty member who recognizes that students are always wanting to be on the good side of the person delivering the grades. Third, it requires a trust that the faculty member will be able to fairly separate between students’ social existence and their academic existence. The Supreme Court may have made that delineation quite clear, but whether a faculty member can actually practice that level of delineation is a whole different story. Fourth, it requires the students to be able to stomach seeing the faculty member in their social existence. This is probably the most challenging for students as they don’t always see faculty members as real folks who do real things outside the classroom.
Students who do add me on Facebook quickly realize that I only have one persona – I don’t have the time or energy to be something different from one arena to the next. Indeed, they typically will be far more fascinated with the silly stuff I write in my blog than my family photos and status updates that get posted only for friends eyes’ on Facebook. I surmise that is really the best benefit of allowing my blog to be “out there” – I remove any need for posturing or worrying about who sees what. There is no blog policy. All that is required with my blog is to keep it real – and to, on occasion, dial down the “yuck” factor so my children aren’t too horribly embarrassed by the things their mother writes in her blog.
And if you are wondering…yes, my three oldest children are my friends on Facebook and are typically far more interested in my family photos and status updates than my blog. Something about living with me has made them appreciate that less, is often more – go figure.
Day nine hundred and thirty-one of the new forty – obla di obla da