Saturday, January 16, 2010

Facebook Weirdness

I mentioned here last month or so that I decided to do a facebook thing. So I did. I found some cousins and an uncle, reconnected with some college pals. I friended some of the folks I hang out with. I found a couple of Peace Corps friends.

And then I got a friend request from a student. I'd decided that I wasn't going to be posting pictures of my at wild drunken parties, mostly because I'm not much of a wild drunken party type. I'm more a late at the library type. And so I'd decided I'd accept friendship requests from co-workers and students.

The other day, I put up an old picture from my PCV days, and the student responded that I was "gorgeous." I have to be honest, I'm at best plain. I'm just not physically attractive, haven't been since I was a little kid. (I'm sure I got the Funny Looking Kid comment on the pediatrician's file.) I'm not putting myself down about this. Some of us have to be below average, you know? And that's where I put myself.

The thing is, the "gorgeous" comment felt totally weird and wrong to me, and I'm trying to figure out why.

I don't think, for example, that the friends I have who are administrators will get me fired.

I don't think my old college friends will suddenly think badly of me. Nor my Peace Corps friends, nor family.

But maybe it feels weird to be judged that way by a student? Is this a social status thing for me? If an old college friend had posted "gorgeous," I probably would have laughed. If my cousin or aunt had, I'd have known it was because we're family.

Is it because it feels so false and bullshitty?

Is it because I don't much respect the Lake Woebegon attitude that we're all just lovely and wonderful?


  1. For me, that's kind of outside the realm of what is facebook-acceptable. I would feel weird if ANYONE who I did not have a romantic attachment with called me "gorgeous" on facebook. And even if I did have a romantic attachment with them... eh. I mean, maybe part of it is personal style, but no, you're not wrong, that's kinda creepy and inappropriate.

  2. being a student comment, there is some chance it was brown-nosing, but a greater chance that people 20+ years younger are stunned to see us when we were close to their ages.

  3. With some of my more hippie-inclined friends, "gorgeous" is usually meant as a less physical compliment. Perhaps the gorgeousness of the photo had to do with the setting or the context of the photo?

    I'll also say that the word meant something far less intimate coming from a member of the student generation than most of "us" would take it. Effusive praise is more and more the norm these days.

  4. I've left similar comments on facebook photos of co-workers, past professors, and even people that I barely know. I wouldn't look too far into this.

  5. I don't take friend requests current students, because I think it is just weird. But some of Offpsring's school teachers (5th grade) have accounts and friend students and their parents. I think that's even weirder...

    But it is a useful way to keep track of alumni - especially if you use the custom privacy settings.

  6. My school has a policy against all internet contact between faculty and students other than through our official school account, and this wise policy eliminates any of these awkward student-teacher interactions on Facebook, thank goodness.

  7. Might I suggest creating a "Limited Profile" setting?

    It avoids the problem of having to 'reject' student friend requests, but also lets you control exactly what they see.

    I set one up as soon as I got to grad school and it has come in nice and handy. For my students? No pictures, no wall comments, no videos, nada. Just a smattering of bland information is all they see.

    Very handy and highly recommended.

  8. Anonymous8:41 PM

    Yes, I would suggest putting those students on limited profile and not friending additional students. You are completely within your rights to limit interactions that are making you uncomfortable!

    After a student "drunk Facebooked" me repeatedly--even though we were not friends he could message me--I went ahead and just took myself out of searches altogether. It makes it hard for legitimate friends to find me, but I don't have to worry about students causing frustration. You'll just have to find a balance that makes you feel comfortable.

  9. Well, I'm glad I read the comments to this post because I learned you can limit what certain Facebook friends see. Didn't know that before. My biggest problem with Facebook is that there are so many different audiences on there, so I have a hard time figuring out what information to include.

  10. I saw that picture and that comment and didn't know it was a student. I actually kind of agreed with the comment, because whether or not you think you're conventionally 'attractive' there really was a fresh-scrubbed, natural, '70s, earnest gorgeousness to the whole picture, you included. And your smile beamed. So, for what it's worth, I think the comment was sincere and deserved!

    Still, I can understand why it might make you feel weird.

  11. PS - Or early '80s, whenever the picture was taken. The fashions were kind of the same. :)

  12. I still dress like that when it's warm enough :)

    Thanks for your comments all. The issue's resolved. I talked to the student about it not being appropriate for students to make comments about prof's looks, or for profs to make comments about student's looks.

    Maybe I'm just overly cranky, though. But I don't comment on students' looks. I would if a student asked specifically if a given outfit were appropriate for a job interview or something, but otherwise, nope. I don't comment when I think they're attractive or not. It's not appropriate to our relationship.

  13. Yeah, I think it's weird too.