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Facebook: What's appropriate?

By Fran Trees

As computer science educators, we think of ourselves as computer savvy. We are knowledgeable about social networks and online communities. I'll wager that a good many of us have accounts on Facebook (even if we do not actively post what we do every waking moment of our existence).

I have a Facebook account. My activity is very limited. I confirm friends when I receive an email requesting me to do so and I have a clue who the person is! I login to my account occasionally to find that my friends are finding Ugly Ducklings on their farms, building horse stables, sharing flowers with me, and doing whatever is happening in Mafia Wars. In a way (a very small way), I'm jealous. How do these people find time to do these things?

I do find joy in keeping up-to-date with activities and events in the lives of my friends: pictures of new grandchildren, accomplishments of dogs in of agility competitions, pictures of vacationing children, new pets, experiences on cool dive sites, and great ski adventures.

I also question some of the information people post. I hesitate to tell the world where I am each day. I doubt that they would care. I don't think I would tell the world where my children are, either. I know, when I post information to Facebook, it's not really "to the world." I do have a bit of control about just who my friends are and who sees what. So, maybe, I'm just a bit old-fashioned.

Lots of people post how they are feeling: it's a bad day today; it was a great day at the mountain; it's only Wednesday; I need sleep. I need chocolate.

Just what is appropriate? Is what's appropriate for one person inappropriate for another?

I was floored when I read the following article about a professor being suspended for comments made on her Facebook page:

http://www.poconorecord.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100226/NEWS/2260344

There are many similar stories:
A student being suspended after threatening remarks on Facebook:

http://www.mndaily.com/2009/12/16/u-student-suspended-after-threatening-remarks-facebook

This makes for a great class discussion (or writing assignment).

What are your thoughts?

Do you have a Facebook account?

How active are you on Facebook?

I can't wait to see how many friend requests I get as a result of this blog!

Fran Trees
CSTA Chapter Liaison

Comments

I have a Facebook account and am mildly active on it. My policy with students, my own or other people's, is that I will accept many/most friend invitations from them but will not send out any on my own. I don't want to the the "stalker ex teacher" for anyone. And I am fairly careful of what I post. I am aware that there are several groups who I am friendly with on Facebook - old friends, family, professional friend from education, professional friends from the computer industry, students past and present and more. They all see things through different filters so you sort of have to post for the worst case most times.

I have a Facebook account, and I check my status every night, after I finish (or give up on) my school work and before I go to bed (if not before). My kids are in their late 20s and early 30s, and that's what got me started. However, I've also gladly reconnected with a lot of people with whom I wouldn't correspond individually but whose day-to-day (or week-to-week) posts are of interest to me: high school classmates, former students, friends from places I used to live, and CS education colleagues. Like Fran, I love seeing their photos, too. (Like Fran, I've marveled at people who seem to have plenty of time for farm and Mafia activities, and I've learned to hide notices from those apps because they seem to crowd out the "real" news.)

I can't imagine posting anything on Facebook like the comments that were made by the professor who was later suspended! When I conducted staff development workshops and training sessions for students at my previous schools, I often said, "Don't put anything in an e-mail message that you don't want to see on a billboard." (My dad used to say something similar, though not quite as extreme, about putting something in writing.) I also said, "Don't make any assumptions about privacy, because someone can and will figure out how to get into any electronic system that exists -- these people have more free time than we do." I hope it gave some people a reality check.

I don't "friend" any of my high school students (not that requests have been pouring in...) but I would still not post anything about my job beyond a very neutral comment like "just finished grading a boatload of CS projects." But my life is pretty tame (if a bit complicated), so it's not as if I'm exercising great restraint and suppressing a lot of juicy details.

I really appreciate the kind of topics you post here. Thanks for sharing us a great information that is actually helpful.

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