Sunday, March 22, 2009

To Facebook, or not to Facebook?

Over at Prone to Laughter, Dance has a post about Facebook and its discontents -- specifically, on professors' concerns about keeping up boundaries between personal networking and professional life.

I've had a couple of non-academic friends badgering me to get on the bus, and I've been figuring that sooner or later I'd have to surrender to the inevitable. I've been toying with the idea of doing it over spring break. But I've been reluctant, for two reasons: first, the aforementioned concerns about boundaries, and second, the time-suck potential. So I'd like to solicit opinions out there. What have been your experiences? On the whole, a good thing or a bad thing? Or perhaps a necessary evil? How do you get the benefits without paying too many of the costs?

16 comments:

Seamyst said...

Caveat: I'm a grad student with no undergrads. That said...

The biggest way I keep Facebook from being a timesink is that I refuse to install ANY apps. None whatsoever. This means I'm not tempted to take the latest quiz on Which Sexy Woman Are You, play games all evening, or join someone's city.

Second way: the new layout sucks. It's extremely visually distracting and they changed how you do a lot of things. Rather than take several hours trying to figure out the new mess, I just check my home page every morning and leave it at that.

raven-moon said...

I personally find Facebook to be rather pointless. It's better than MySpace, but it's whole point seems to be accruing friends, as though the numbers mean something. Nor does there seem to be any real content, like with a blog. Personally, I live on LiveJournal. It's seems like a better blend of networking/community and actual content. Just my 2 cents worth...

meg said...

I get a lot out of FB, but like Seamyst, I refrain from ALL external applications. Also, I don't, as a policy, become friends with current students. (There's a policy page on faculty-student FB interaction, although I don't have the link.)

I like being able to stay in touch passively with people that I'm fond of. My general strategy is that I don't friend anyone with whom I would look forward to having a drink.

heu mihi said...

I'm on FB, and, while it's nice for the occasional updates and briefly reconnecting with old friends to whom I no longer have much to say, I can't begin to understand why/how people spend SO much time on there. Honestly, I don't know what they're doing. I remember to check my home page maybe once a week; mostly I just get an occasional email through my profile, and use it as a convenient way for people who may have lost track of my current address to contact me (and for me to contact them, of course).

So I'm probably not representative of the FB community.

Students have started befriending me, and I'm not refusing their requests, but I do try to make sure that my private life stays private: no embarrassing photos; no interesting conversations on "walls"; few and enigmatic status updates, etc. I honestly have no problem with not having an active and visible public life (aside from the pseudonymous blog, of course!).

Anastasia said...

Well, since I'm on there a lot, I'll tell you what I'm doing: engaging in long comment thread conversations with friends. It's just the sort of thing we used to do on email or that we could do on IM, except more people are involved. Thus, someone posts a funny/witty/intriguing status message, someone leaves a funny/witty/biting comment, someone comments on the comment, and on that comment and so forth. I've had stupid fun conversations that way and serious conversations that way. Sometimes these conversations spill over into facebook messages. If enough people are involved, I can be receiving a new comment or message every five minutes, at which point it can become a timesink. That said, the conversation will generally run its course over 20 or 30 minutes and then we all need to get to work.

Apps don't take that much time, unless it's an idle friday evening and I feel like taking quizzes.

anyway, I absolutely love fb. I don't live near any of my grad school friends and I miss their thoughts, their deep understanding of my field, their pedagogical insights, their immediate recognition of my particular grad school experience. I miss talking shop. I don't get that anywhere else.

I don't friend current students. A few former students have friended me, which is fine. Even at that, I'm pretty selective about who can see my status messages. FB allows the user a lot of control over who can see what parts of the profile.

Seamyst said...

Oh, yes, I forgot about faculty and students.

My department (history) is smallish, in terms of both faculty and students, and is pretty close-knit. We're the kind who will invite people in the hallway (mainly faculty and grad students) to come to a nearby bar/restaurant for drinks after class. We also tend to disseminate info on dept. and Phi Alpha Theta parties via Facebook, so faculty and students (upper-level undergrads and grad students) tend to friend each other.

That said, I know I can only view limited profiles on my profs, and I believe my profile is set to limited for them as well. (Something I need to check on, actually.) We just tend to have long, involved snark-fests on status updates and notes.

dance said...

You make my post sound so much more intellectual than it is...

I joined two days ago---not coincidentally, two hours after I received a batch of papers to grade.

Student boundaries I think are not that big an issue. I'm setting a blanket no-students policy (but alumni welcomed) which I will put in my syllabus. And I went to the Privacy settings first thing and set everything to friends only, and you can even limit things to sets of friends, I think. Actually, the only boundaries thing that troubled me was that I wanted to post some family pix that included teenagers in bikinis, and finally left out all bathing suit pix. Boundaries with colleagues might be more difficult, actually, but I haven't run into them yet.

Timesuck---well, I accept that I am going to waste some time. Better to waste it building connections with people I like, than otherwise. I am avoiding apps, also. And it seems the barrier is a little lower for things like posting pix, I don't feel they need to be as perfect or carefully chosen for my personal site, so I finally posted some pix I'd been sitting on for six months. I'm really TERRIBLE at keeping in touch with people whom I am quite fond of, so I think FB will help remedy a lack that bothers me regularly. Especially now that I'm at the point where friends' kids are growing up far away. But I'll probably try to stick to some limits on when I log in.

Ink said...

I *love* FB! It's a wonderful way to keep in touch with people more consistently than the occasional email or phone call. However, I recommend, like some of the other folks here, having a no-student policy (alumni welcome)... I didn't start out with that policy but there was some weirdness that made me change it!

Belle said...

I'm on FB too. Two ways: under my own name, for students and organizations and under an alias for friends. Under my own name, I've had friends from grad school days find me, and friend me. That's okay. The alias is for me - my friends' updates, a game of scrabble every now and again, some silly apps.

I find the student posts more worrying than helpful, but they do check their FB so it's okay as a communications tool. One student updated his status saying he didn't want to go to class, and it was my class he ditched. They tend to post silly stuff that gives them away. A colleague has class pages and is more interactive with his students than I want to be.

It's not a time suck for me, because as Seamyst says, it's the apps that do it. I can see that. I still prefer email and blogs.

Historiann said...

Well, I think you already know what I think. What good could come of it, compared to the harm? (Even if the "harm" is TMI about your students, and that icky feeling that you left your shades up when you undressed--I mean didn't control your privacy settings appropriately so you don't know who got an eyefull.)

I just don't see the point. No one can post content to your blog without your permission, but your so-called "friends" can do that on FB as I understand it. (Remember our old pal Jon Favreau?) I'm not even anonymous/completely pseudonymous like you, but I refuse to let anyone post photos of me on line, and of course I don't myself. You just don't know who's out there and what they're doing with your information. Sorry to pee in the pool here--I know I'm vox clamantis in deserto on this one.

Matthew Gabriele said...

FWIW, I'm not on Facebook. I'm worried about boundaries, but mostly it's because I don't want to be that old guy on Facebook, doing what all the kids are doing. Like my wife's father....

Susan said...

I'm on FB; I don't friend students, but I have some colleagues on FB (including current office colleagues.) I have an unusual name, so am easy to find. Among my "friends" are a bunch of cousins I don't see much; friends from Jr. High and High school I had completely lost touch with, etc. I actually like that I can be in touch with people relatively easily.

That said, I don't usually spend much time on FB -- maybe once a day? Or I read notes/comments when they pop up in my e-mail. I spend a lot more time reading blogs, so if I wanted to give up "timewasting" activities, that would be it :)

Meghan said...

This is my first time commenting, although I've been lurking for a while. Love your blog!

Facebook is completely safe as long as you update your privacy settings. Virtually every concern raised here -- students being able to see your profile, people posting inappropriate comments on your wall -- can be prevented just by changing your settings. I have my profile set so that only friends can see me; anyone I'm not friends with will not even know that I have a profile, much less be able to view it. As for wall posts, I haven't found that to be a problem myself but you can turn off your wall so that no one can post.

Not Nurse Ratched said...

I just wouldn't know what anyone was up to if it weren't for FB. E-mail has become passe, so if you miss someone's wedding announcement and pics on FB, then, well, you missed it. The electronic age, baby. The apps are annoying, though; I have, like, two. I think you have to be under 21 to think they're interesting. Except the word game ones obviously. Privacy...I have a "professional" group who don't have access to, eg, my bachelorette party photos (the terrifying penis cake...argh). You actually have fairly comprehensive control.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

I think I've blogged this, but anyway, I use FB as my public face. When non-academic friends and family friend me, I let them know that it's the face I show to students, and I friend back any student who friends me. Apps can be a timesuck, but I do love wordscraper and word twist. Mostly, I ignore them.

But it's nice for our faculty 'club' and the history club, and students see me interacting with colleagues wrt what we're writing, conferences, etc.

My students seem to like to interact with me there, too, and our student body is the type that really wants to 'know' the faculty. This is a good way for me to control the information flow, as far as I can tell. Having said that, I have my privacy settings cranked up to 11.

Gift of Green said...

I was suckered into FB, thoroughly enjoyed my 2+ months of reconnecting with friends from elementary school, and then bade it a happy goodbye. It really was the time-sucking that did it for me... I found that blogging felt more personal and I guess I just like visiting blogs better.