December 06, 2007

Facebook friending fun

Writing about web page

Most faculty members on Facebook keep their profiles professional — nothing racier than would be posted, say, on an office door. The consensus on friending seems to be: Accept students’ requests but don’t initiate any. That’s one of the guidelines for “Faculty Ethics on Facebook,” a group started by Mark A. Clague, an assistant professor of musicology at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor. “Since there’s an uneven power dynamic, giving the power to the students to control the relationship” is good policy, he says.

It’s an interesting point. If you as an academic invited students to become your friends, what message would that be sending? Would it be different if you were explicitly using Facebook as a sort of hipper-than-thou VLE, or if you just had a personal page? The very fact that an institution has created an ethics handbook on the subject shows how important the issue is becoming – and it’s not just Facebook, of course; it’s Facebook today but it’s any and all social networking sites in general. (More amusingly, I’m also tickled by the student who was supposedly going to a family funeral, but whose Facebook page revealed him in reality to be cavorting on the beach. Friending is fraught with risk, it seems!)

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