Facebook face-off

19 Oct

Facebook Two newspaper cuttings have appeared in my office recently, anonymously. The latest is from yesterday’s Independent: Professors – keep out. It asks whether lecturers should frequent a social space popular with students (I choose to keep out of their bars and clubs, after all). Can Facebook ever be used for teaching purposes?

What am I to make of this? Most likely, a colleague thought I’d be interested in the cuttings (I am). More sinisterly, is someone trying to warn me off (why else remain anonymous)?

Let me revisit where I stand on Facebook. It’s above all a social networking space. Want to learn about individuals? Check out their friends and their photos. Want to keep in contact with people whose jobs, phones and other contact details frequently change? Now you can do it. No one has to befriend their lecturer – but some choose to and some find it useful.

It’s my job to show connections that students often struggle to see. Between classroom theory and real-world practice. Between being a student and a practitioner. That learning doesn’t stop when you’re 21. Students don’t see that something they do with their friends can have anything to do with public relations. Yet I’m interested in the blurring boundary between private and public, and networks and relationships are part of public relations. We used to have the little black book of contacts; now we have Facebook ‘friends’.

If lecturers should keep out of Facebook, what about blogging? And should I have just accepted the editorship of ‘the public relations magazine for students and young practitioners’ since I’m self-evidently in neither category?

4 Responses to “Facebook face-off”

  1. David Phillips 20/10/2007 at 11:35 am #

    This, must be part of the learning curve. Being online (and we all are) means that people find out stuff about you. If the stuff you put online is embarrassing, live with it. Students are people life the rest of us. They are not ‘special’ they just have a different job.
    The merging of public, professional and private lives online (its was similar pre industrial revolution) is the ‘penalty’ we pay for ubiquitous interactive communication. The other face of this kind of transparency is the Student’s Union campaign with HSBC. Open, public, visible group activity where the individuals were not faceless petition signers but real live people with a Facebook profile.
    The difference between a student bar and Facebook is the difference between a student bar and Headingly High street where there are a lot of students as well.
    The Internet is a ‘place’. Facebook, a street.

  2. Heather 20/10/2007 at 5:02 pm #

    But Richard – just think about all those truly shocking secrets you could discover about your students
    like..
    they get drunk and party a lot…
    How scandalous

  3. Svend 23/10/2007 at 10:17 pm #

    Certainly raise some interesting points here, Richard. My personal view is that using facebook isn’t usually a bad thing, but wrongful/mis-use of it can be.
    It’s no secret many emplyees “google” possible candidates for new positions, to see what it can discover of useful or unuseful information that could have an impact on the work he//she does, or even the enviornment around at work. Facebook is yet another way to see new sides of people, but it hasn’t have to be a bad thing.
    At the moment I have two former lecturers of mine as friends on facebook (and trying to get your acceptance), as well as the main chief at my current school. To me it’s a nice way to stay in touch, and possibly get (or give) some advice in the future.
    There’s another aspect that has been discussed here in Norway, and that is the link between journalists and sources (or people on the other side of the mic/pen/camera). Some says it’s a total lac of distance to the sources when a journalist has famous people (which he/she later interviews) as friends, whilst others says “these relations has always excisted, now the public can actualy see them, and all cards are on the table”.
    Just some thoughts!

  4. Gyorgy Szondi 29/10/2007 at 1:02 am #

    Richard,
    First of apologies for the anonymity, it was me who slid the Independent article under your door, not a mischievous student:-) No intention behind it, simply thought you might like it or pick it up in your blog…
    Apropos, facebook. Now I am one of the keen members (partly thanks to you). I have not uploaded many photos yet – and probably will not do so in the near future. I am really amazed that some people update their profile or photos so frequently…. they are going to parties to have their photos taken and upload them on facebook…does facebook mirror reality or has facebook become reality?
    I was watching Watchdog on BBC1 the other day and quickly changed some of my profile details…see below why.
    Facebook security
    Social networking websites are the modern way to keep in touch. Millions of us have joined websites such as MySpace, Facebook and Bebo, where we can keep an eye on what old friends are doing and make new ones. But displaying certain details online may not be safe.
    The full story:
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/consumer/tv_and_radio/watchdog/reports/internet/internet_20071024.shtml

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