The end of the academic year is sort of getting close(r), and so it is time to Review Things. Yesterday we reviewed my progress, such as it is, in my language class. Today we will review my evolving Facebook Philosophy, which has recently been updated (4 minutes ago).
When I first started getting involved in the FB universe, I consulted more savvy colleagues, including one who had spent a lot of time thinking about FB in the context of professor-student interactions. He told me that the #1 Rule is to accept all friend requests from students, but never send a friend request to a student. So that's what I did.. for a while.
Now I ignore this rule: I no longer 'friend' my students. There was no specific incident that made me change my mind; I just didn't enjoy it or find it interesting or useful, and I doubt if the students did either. As long as my students know that I don't accept any such requests and am not singling anyone out to be a friend vs. not a friend, no one seems to mind (or care).
My colleague (who is actually a friend in real life) teaches at a small liberal arts college, and perhaps that is an important difference between our FB experiences as professors. He and his students spend a lot of time together, take goofy pictures of each other in the department and post them on FB, and in general have more actual out-of-classroom experiences that make the virtual out-of-classroom interactions more meaningful.
I have other colleagues at Big Research Universities like mine who friend all students who send them a request and they end up with hundreds of student-friends, but that type of FB ecosystem is not for me. I have fun with FB and various groups of real friends from various phases of my life, past and present, but so far I remain unconvinced that I need this type of relationship with undergraduate students in the courses I teach or that my students really want me to see the pictures from the parties they went to last weekend.
I think it is a good thing if students see their professors as real people with real lives outside the classroom and with non-academic interests, but Facebook isn't how I want to convey that information to my students. Also, my status updates tend to be bizarre, and that might be counterproductive.
9 months ago