Comments, Please: Professors and Students as Facebook Friends

I’m working up a post on students and professors being friends on Facebook, but in truth, it’s wandering, and I’m just too darned tired to shape it up this morning for publishing.

So help me out in the meantime: what are your convictions about Facebook “friending” between students and professors? I’m talking about adult students here: higher education. As a bit of a preview: I suggest that one’s answer to this questions depends on what you think Facebook is for, and that the answer to that question is user-specific.

Comments on students and profs being Facebook “friends”?

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15 Responses

  1. I think it’s fine. I don’t send friend requests to students, but I will accept them. Facebook is public enough (even with its so-called “privacy” settings) that a professor shouldn’t use it for anything he or she doesn’t want students to see, anyway. (Students should realize this works the other way as well!)

    The larger question is, how does one interact with students once they are friends? I generally will not comment about or “like” something a student writes unless it is specifically academic in nature or I am connected with the comment in some way. I might comment if a student makes a post about finishing a big research paper or about getting into graduate school. I wouldn’t comment about their rafting trip unless I was on the same trip.

    The great thing about being friends with students, and this is REALLY great, is that in a matter of time you are friends with alumni. I have been on Facebook long enough now that many of my friends are former students out in the world doing interesting things. It really is the best way to keep up with alumni, at least right now.

    I am working on a writing project here that called for me to get two former research assistants involved. They had both graduated from their MDiv programs, so I didn’t have a clue of where they were. So I sent them a Facebook email. Easy-peasy.

    I say professors should use Facebook to connect with their students. Just don’t be creepy.

  2. Bryan has pretty much articulated my outlook: “Just don’t be creepy.”

    Since I try to make it a point to not say things online, in any sphere, that I wouldn’t say on a billboard, I don’t have a problem with being Facebook friends with students, if they want to friend me. I try never to poke fun at student work, or trash-talk colleagues, or succumb to hot-headed partisanship in what I write online — even though you know I’ve be tempted.

    Students who read my blog might as well read my FB status. Anything that enhances mutual understanding enhances the medium for teaching (well, almost anything).

  3. Bryan and AKMA both raise key points. Don’t be creepy is of course a cardinal rule, but this generally applies to all interactions with students, online or not. AKMA does point out however the importance of not saying things online you wouldn’t say at a lunch table full of students, and the academic dean. I would add that professors have to decide how much of their personal sphere of life they want their students to know about. Mushy Gushy wall notes to your spouse and pictures of you in your swimsuit at the beach probably wouldn’t be recommended.
    And, whether or not the student thinks through this or not, how much do you want to know about his/her personal life? I’m certainly not against it, in fact, I think perhaps it would push some of my student colleagues to start thinking in a more professional manner about what they post online, before it’s the next big church scandal.

  4. I heartily third the above.

  5. I keep the accept but don’t request policy when it comes to student friends on facebook. I also make sure to not say anything that I would not say in front of the dean at the lunch table.

    I won’t speak about anything that upsets me online, so I can’t get into trouble there. I do have the privacy settings set so that students cannot post on my wall.

    I also find it good to sometimes remind the students in class that I can see their status on my home page feed. For instance, one student posted a status update right before a mid-term exam: “Why do we need the OT anyway when we have Jesus.” Another posted after writing a paper for me: “I just turned in a half-assed paper” (thanks for the heads up, it will help in the grading process). I did not comment on their status updates, but did mention the posts in class (at a much later date and without mentioning names) as a reminder to the class that a professor does not have to be lurking on their page to see their status updates on their home page feed.

  6. I am not sure there is a huge difference between being a friend with a student/professor and most anyone else on facebook. Most of us “friend” someone and then essentially go on with life as usual. The reminder that we live lives much more publicly now with the evolution of social media is a good reminder and each of us have different levels of comfortability with what we want everyone and their brother to know.

  7. I’m not a professor, just a TA at this point. I only accept requests and even then only at the end of the semester once grades are submitted. I figure that as a TA in my mid 20s I’m better off maintaining the boundary between student and teacher until I’m no longer in control of their grades.

    A huge benefit of “friending” students so far has been remembering their names when I see them around campus, which actually goes a long way on a big campus like Penn State. Another benefit is that the students are able to see my updates and photos from my time excavating which are actually related to the material we cover in class. I get great comments and there’s even talk of people joining me next summer. I really haven’t had any problems yet, so I’m sticking with the policy again for this semester and I’m always recommending it to my fellow TAs.

  8. Personally, I would wait until my students become my former students before accepting a friend request.

  9. […] anummabrooke wrote an interesting post today onComments, Please: Professors and Students as <b>Facebook Friends</b>Here’s a quick excerpt […]

  10. I'm not a professor, just a TA at this point. I only accept requests and even then only at the end of the semester once grades are submitted. I figure that as a TA in my mid 20s I'm better off maintaining the boundary between student and teacher until I'm no longer in control of their grades.

    A huge benefit of "friending" students so far has been remembering their names when I see them around campus, which actually goes a long way on a big campus like Penn State. Another benefit is that the students are able to see my updates and photos from my time excavating which are actually related to the material we cover in class. I get great comments and there's even talk of people joining me next summer. I really haven't had any problems yet, so I'm sticking with the policy again for this semester and I'm always recommending it to my fellow TAs.;. All the best!!

  11. I purposely do not have facebook for this very reason. I’m happy to do lunch with my students, meet with them, even joke with them during or after class . . . . but just something about that facebook. It’s an x-factor I can’t control.

  12. John, you aren’t on facebook because students are on there? Seriously, you should set up a facebook account. It is a great way to interact on a more personal basis with your extended group, bibliobloggers included. Just ignore students if that’s what you want. They won’t care, believe me.

  13. Bryan:

    I’m not on facebook because I don’t want any incriminating stuff to show up that I can’t remedy before someone sees it.

    Actually, I’m just not terribly into that sort of thing. Blogging is one thing. Right now family and dissertation and teaching trump all; time is a commodity that is in high demand and is all too skimpy. Maybe once I’m tenured (wink).

  14. […] anummabrooke wrote an interesting post today onComments, Please: Professors and Students as <b>Facebook Friends</b> « AnummaHere’s a quick excerpt […]

  15. […] Together: Mass Hysteria! Posted on September 14, 2009 by anummabrooke When I asked earlier for comments about students and profs “friending” on Facebook, I rather expected (on the basis of the usual […]

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