Facebook for Two-Faced People
I like Facebook, I really do. I enjoy seeing what my friends are up to – their photos, updates, etc.
I think the games are kinda silly, but that’s another topic.
Here’s the problem with Facebook: it forces a two-faced person to come out of hiding.
By “two-faced,” I’m not thinking of the traditional meaning of the idiom. Let’s admit it – most of us are people with multiple facets to our lives. We move in several different social and professional circles. I, for one, am not comfortable when these circles overlap with each other.
Here’s an easy, theoretical example. (No, I’m not talking about any of my students!) A college student has many Facebook friends, and there are pictures of social happenings posted that might involve drinking, foolish behavior, kissing, and other such shenanigans. Nothing illegal, but perhaps quasi-embarrassing. This student has a conservative professor, and they are “friends” on Facebook. The professor sees some of the shenanigans and forms a somewhat biased and slightly unfavorable opinion of the student. My guess would be that the student did not intend for the professor to see those photos. Without the Facebook connection, this kind of event would happen only rarely.
Here’s another, more personal example. I hold strong political and religious beliefs. It is not appropriate for me to discuss either in the classroom. However, on Facebook, all of my “friends” can get mixed up together – and it’s possible for my opinions and affiliations to be exposed to my professional colleagues. All of a sudden, students may be reluctant to express opposing points of view in their class projects. I hope I am tolerant of other points of view – I certainly try to be. But I don’t want students to even worry about this.
All teachers face these problems when they “friend” their students. It’s a dilemma, because we all want to be relevant and conversant with them. One answer might be to use more specialized social networks, like LinkedIn. I’m sure there are many other solutions that the GLMA membership has discovered – I would love to hear about them.
So when I don’t pay attention to Facebook activity, I hope my friends will understand. And the games are kinda silly.
MaryAnn Fitzgerald – University of Georgia
(still accepting applications for Fall 2010!)