Facebook etiquette: my thoughts

15 Jun

Older and wiser heads have visited this topic already (as well as Stephen Davies, of course). I’m new (and, unlike Andrew, enthusiastic), but sense the need for some personal guidelines on Facebook friendships.

When it was a private network of college peers, then no rules were necessary. But what about power relationships: parents and children, uncles and nieces, bosses and junior colleagues, clients and consultants, lecturers and students? These change the dynamics and the nature of the discourse.

My Facebook friendship principles:

  • This is primarily a social space. I try to avoid mixing work and pleasure (though universities exist at the boundary – between young and old, theory and practice, business and parties – and Facebook operates at the boundary between public and private)
  • I accept friends invitations from those in existing networks (bloggers, past and present colleagues, fellow academics and professionals, students on my course, alumni)
  • I send friends requests to students who I have good reason to communicate with (feedback on assignments; reference checks; alumni networking)
  • I will only make Facebook a formal communication channel for teaching with the public consent of the whole group
  • I will respect the wishes of any student who chooses not to befriend their tutor

My addition to the debate (and a useful consideration for my students) is the point about references. This week I received a reference request for a student who is graduating this summer, but whom I last taught in 2003. I was happy to provide this endorsement, and able to keep the student in the picture thanks to Facebook. Yes, pictures… I confess I occasionally receive reference requests and struggle to put a face to the name. No longer a problem. She’s the smiling face with dark hair in a red dress towards the back of the picture. No, third from the left, half hidden by…

5 Responses to “Facebook etiquette: my thoughts”

  1. Jeff Jarvis 16/06/2007 at 12:43 am #

    Couldn’t i have been the link for wiser not older?

  2. Richard Bailey 16/06/2007 at 12:11 pm #

    You would indeed have been both, Jeff, if I’d been able to attach two hyperlinks to one phrase.
    David Brain had to be ‘younger’ because Facebook told me it was his birthday on the day I wrote this.

  3. Liz Chester 19/06/2007 at 9:57 am #

    This is an interesting point you have brought to light Richard. Thank you for accepting my friend request by the way! It is difficult to keep the facebook friendship principles as facebook was primarily set up as university social network system, however it took teachers a lot longer to sign up and so facebook eventually became a network for students to post pictures of last nights drunken antics and moan about the effects of their excessive alcohol abuse or even slander a cheating boyfriend… you name it, whatever it is its not usually official untill its mentioned on facebook! I have to say I did have a bit of a shock when my college chaplain signed up and started using facebook as a means to get OS (Old Stonyhurst) together for catch ups. Not surprisingly I have not seen much of him in the facebook world as of late. I have to admit I am somewhat of a facebook ‘addict’ as even though I don’t like to admit it i spend far too much time logged in, however i have now turned all this wasted time spent skulking around the network to a new project… my experience blog!

  4. Andrew Smith 20/06/2007 at 12:57 pm #

    I AM enthusiastic about Facebook – that’s the problem – faced with doing work or checking out what my friends are up to, the temptation is enormous……

  5. David Brain 12/07/2007 at 3:16 pm #

    Wow . . wiser than Jeff Jarvis . . . my work on this earth is done!

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