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…