College Students and Professors Connecting on Facebook

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Did you ever think about adding your professors on Facebook? Ever wonder if one of your professors thought about adding their students and maybe adding you to their list of Facebook friends? Those questions were answered in a recent study at Ohio State University about the use of Facebook among professors and students. The study found that four out of five faculty using Facebook aren’t friends with their students but those who are friends with their students don’t give them full access to their Facebook profile. James McAuley, an associate professor at Ohio State University, says that being Facebook friends with current and former students has not led to any surprises that may influence his opinion on students. “I would think most students are aware of the potential problems with putting something on their page that is inappropriate or unprofessional,” McAuley said, according to an OSU press release.

As social media has become a big part of the everyday life, use of Facebook has developed.  Everyone who has seen the movie “The Social Network” knows how Facebook has expanded from a social medium used only by students to every aspect of college life: clubs, sports, events, and other school related activities. And of course, Facebook is not just for young people anymore. Some professors at NYIT think it’s a great way to keep in contact with both current and former students. “Facebook is an ideal way to communicate with current students,” says Gary Licker, the program director of NYIT LI News Tonight and Communication Arts professor. “Most of my students are already using Facebook, so when I want to communicate with current students, I prefer Facebook over email.”

John Misak, adjunct professor of the English Department feels that it’s not a good form of communication with current students and it occupies too much in the individual’s personal life. “Some compartmentalization should exist in both students’ and professors’ lives,” Misak says. “Certain aspects become exposed and thus possible topics of class discussion. Also, consider the student (or professor) who takes an absence for a stated reason and then their Facebook status contradicts this reason.” So if on a nice sunny day at the end of the semester, you decide to skip class, tell your professor you’re sick and then post a different status on Facebook such as going to the Mets game, you want to make sure you don’t get yourself in a bad situation.

When NYIT students were asked about the study at Ohio State University and how they would handle being friends with professors on Facebook they seemed to be on both sides of the coin. “I would ignore (a request from the professor),” says Freshman Damian Vlachos. Vlachos also added, “People have mixed feelings about their professors and there’s just stuff you don’t want them to know.” But sometimes as Senior Robert Marzano points out, Facebook could be a quicker way of communication. “I think having current or past professors on Facebook is not a problem,” Marzano says. “You can communicate to them about assignments, rather than email, it takes seconds for them to reach you, and it is also a good way for them to talk about current, past, and future assignments to have a head start.”

Some students also feel there is no need to add them on Facebook. “It might be helpful,” says Junior Rachel LaBianca. “But at the same time it might not be because they would know more about you than you might want them to know.”  There are many gambles to take with being Facebook friends with your professors as one status that you may think is great could come back and hurt you later on. For example, you’re applying for an internship and need letters of recommendation and you message that professor your close with to ask them to write you one. They will agree to do it but then what they write might surprise you if you see the letter or if you get a rejection from the job. The answer to that would be is what is posted on the profile such as beer pong pictures and that professor will get a different idea about the student. Those professors knowing more about you can also be a positive thing for future references by seeing your work on the web. But ultimately it comes down to the individuals and how they manage their own profiles. Some won’t have to worry about what is posted on Facebook while others will have to be concerned not just for now in college but when applying for that first job. Everyone has access to Facebook and will find a way to see if that person is really who they say they are in that job interview.

According to the study, previous research on social network use among college students suggests that because of the power differential between the students and professors, the students are the ones taking risks at being Facebook friends with their professors because of information and photos that could appear on the page.  NYIT Associate Professor of Communication Arts Jim Fauvell says he prefers to wait to add students until they graduate. “I try to maintain a line between personal and professional relationships with my students,” says Prof. Fauvell. “When they graduate, I feel we can become friends. Until then, unless a student goes overseas, or leaves school unexpectently I prefer to wait,” Fauvell said.

If an individual is smart with managing their Facebook account and profile, it will probably lead to less problems and trouble down the road. Have fun on Facebook but also be smart in how you handle yourself and your identity.

 

 

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