Sunday, June 20, 2010

Thoughts on Facebook

I've been on Facebook for several months now. Mostly, I use it to help keep in touch with my relatives. I have a big family in another part of the country, and it's fun to hear a bit what they're doing.

I recently friended one of the younger members of the family who just graduated from high school; since I've been away so very long, I don't know Joe very well. We've seen each other perhaps five times, total, none for long casual visits. I have to say, it's fascinating to see how much he posts to facebook compared to the older members of the family.

It's also fun to see him make comments that from his perspective are wildly radical, and from my cynical perspective aren't. (Not that I'd say that to him; we have to go through stuff, and I hope he's also patient with my bird and flower pictures.)

I need a filter for the "this is something B would care about" vs "this is just Joe rambling."

I think the couple of students who've friended me probably have me on a limited viewing thing, or maybe they just don't post that much, because in comparison, Joe posts tons.


Friending students: A couple of my upper level students sent me friend requests this spring, and I've accepted, and it's fine. But if you remember this post? I explained to the student that I was uncomfortable and didn't think it was appropriate for to comment on someone's looks if you're primarily in a professional relationship. (Student/teacher, teacher/student, etc. I suppose it's different if you're doing makeup on an actress, but that's not it here.)

The student got upset and unfriended me; I was neutral about that. I wouldn't have unfriended the student, but it was okay that s/he did.

And then I noticed that I wasn't seeing the student's frequent comments on a mutual "friend's" page.

About the same time, a friend of mine (different) was getting comments from person X (unrelated to anything else in this long tale) on his/her page, and asked me what I thought of them. But I wasn't seeing them, so we figured out that X had made it so I couldn't see his/her comments or search or whatever.

So in my curiousity about how facebook works, I looked and saw that I couldn't search for the student, either, so I figured out that s/he probably set privacy that way. I felt a little less neutral, but okay.

Time passed. (Are you even still reading?)

Then I was seeing this student's responses to the mutual friend again, and then not to long later, I got a friend request from the student.

The thing is, while I wouldn't have unfriended this student, I don't miss his/her frequent gushy comments at all, and I have no urge to friend him/her again. I don't worry now that one of my colleagues or family members will misinterpret the gushiness, for example. And the friend request came with a gushy message about how once someone's had a class with me, they wouldn't want to be without.

The friend request made me realize that I didn't put any more pictures up from my Peace Corps days and seem to post less personally than I did. It wasn't concious on my part, but I guess my discomfort played out that way. I'm maybe a bit more self-protective (though it's not like I was putting up wild partying pictures anyway).

So I don't know. I feel sort of rude not answering at all, but I haven't answered or anything.

A side note: a while back, I played a lot of Everquest and was in a guild (a voluntary association of people who have access to ways to work together in the game and share a common identifying tag in game). It was mostly a good guild, but there was one member who would get upset about something and click whatever you clicked to leave the guild and post something on the guild boards about how unhappy he was with everything and he was leaving. And then a while later, he'd post a request to rejoin the guild.

After he did this a couple times, there was some doubt among some members about having him rejoin. Yes, he was good friends with some members, but no one needed the drama.

And so I asked him (on his board request for rejoining), "What's changed? What makes you think you'll be happy with the guild this time?"

I think that was helpful because the guild hadn't changed; we weren't going to do things the way he wanted. And he really hadn't changed. He still wanted to do things his way. And we were all tired of the drama.

So, he responded that he was withdrawing his request because, indeed, nothing really had changed, and he probably needed to think about that before rejoining or joining a different guild.

My point is (you're glad there is a point, right?) that I don't know what has changed for this student enough to go from unfriending me and putting privacy stuff in place, to removing the privacy stuff and now doing a friend request. But if nothing's changed, I have no interest in a similar drama.

Somewhere, I read that madness is doing the same thing again and again and expecting different results. I don't need madness (because weeding my garden is pretty much all that I can handle).


  1. The student may have gone "inactive" on Facebook entirely if you weren't seeing any trace of her elsewhere. If you de-activate your account, the comments disappear and you can't be found in a search. I had a friend do that and thought he'd unfriended me, but he came back later.

    And if the student is one of those students who "collect" friends (do they have 500+ friends?), she may have completely forgotten about the drama and when she came back from being inactive, thought, "Hey, I'll friend Dr. Bardiac."

  2. Oh, Facebook. A lovely new way to introduce more drama and etiquette fouls into everyone's lives. Isn't 'social networking' fun?

    Student X sounds like a perfect example of why Facebook is so often more trouble than it's worth.

    My advice? Friend them to avoid the "Why didn't you accept my request" crap, but put them on an extremely limited list. No photos, no wall posts, no tags, no nothing. That way you haven't offended them by rejecting the offer but you can still feel free to post whatever pictures/thoughts/rants you desire.

  3. I tend not to accept friend requests until a student has graduated / transfered etc. Mostly because I'd like to be able to complain a little and not offend someone in my class.

    Oddly enough. I started my facebook account four or five years ago because I needed to communicate with my debaters -- all of whom were students. They wouldn't check e-mail, but they were on facebook all the time. Now they've moved on to other things and I'm still on facebook... sigh.

  4. Ugh, Student X sounds like a lover of drama. J. Harker's suggestion sounds good to me - say yes, but put him/her on a very limited list.

    My rule of thumb is I do not accept friend requests from students, plain and simple.

  5. I don't think you should feel guilty for not accepting their friend request, if you decide not to do that.

    Facebook should be whatever you want it to be, meaning that if you just want family and friends there, then that's fine!

  6. I don't friend current students, but my FB friends include former students, people from the blogworld I have met IRL, professional acquaintances/ colleagues (some of whom I have never met in IRL), cousins, second cousins, junior high, high school and college classmates. I have a relatively unusual surname, so am easy to find. But because I have such an odd combination of FB friends, I find I don't post much of significance. (My most common posts are pictures from my morning walks.)

    I have considered for teaching purposes an account for Professor X, to separate it from my personal one...

  7. I wouldn't bother friending that student back, myself. They unfriended you originally, who needs the drama, and they should just bloody well get over any possible hurt feelings if you don't re-friend them.

    I don't have the student/teacher conundrum to deal with, but I am extremely cautious about what I post on Facebook these days. For one, I simply don't trust the company running Facebook; they have a terrible reputation. But there are friends on Facebook that I don't see anywhere else online, and so I find myself loathe to just quit it entirely. I use it occasionally as an announcement board, and I reply occasionally to friends' posts, but I don't post anything there that I wouldn't be willing to have accessed quite publicly. I will say that the livechat feature has been enjoyable; I've gotten to chat online to people (like yourself) when otherwise we wouldn't have connected. So that makes me reluctant to quit as well. :)

  8. You don't really need to worry about hurting the kid's feelings by not choosing to friend hir again. My newly-graduated colleagues seem to friend/unfriend/ignore at their whim, and without much emotional investment.

    I actually have a teacher site for my students, where I post occasionally and always in a student-friendly way. This allows me to be the vulgar mean jerk I want to be and my friends and family expect on my regular page.

  9. i also have an odd mix of FB friends -- family, personal friends, blog friends. i'm on FB under an alias, because i don't want to be searchable. but i also don't post anything that i wouldn't want passed around.

    i think it is fine to ignore friend requests. i've also de-friended people for various reasons -- including the one professional friend i had on the list, after a difficult professional drama.