It’s a social media issue that comes up at least once an academic year: Should students and their professors be friends on Facebook?
There are varying schools of thought on the issue. Some professors and administrators think it’s fine to befriend students, while others avoid it. Some students think it’s creepy, while others request professors’ friendships and don’t understand why they get no response.
Ten students in the class thought educators should interact with their students via social media. Five did not. Interestingly, three of those five followed me on Twitter, Instagram or both.
Note: I haven’t figured out what my policy on Instagram should be, but a lot of my 11-year-old daughter’s friends follow me, so I figure it’s safe for my students as well. If they’re interested in photos of my shoes and my dog, have at them, right?
Interestingly, the students thought age, the social medium and whether the connection was being used to assist in the educational process were key to making this decision. You can read more about their responses in Social Media in Education: How Close is Too Close?
My personal policy is that I am not Facebook friends with students until they graduate.
I have two Facebook accounts–one personal and one to complement this blog.
I tell my students that they are welcome to “like” me and engage with me on my professional Facebook account. I use the account to:
- engage with other media industry professionals,
- promote content from this professional media blog and
- share links to interesting content, most of which is related to media or media education.
My personal Facebook is where I engage with friends and family. My posts there are related to my personal life and include a ridiculous number of photos of my children and dogs. I do not “friend” everyone who requests my friendship on my personal Facebook page. I do not “friend” any students on this page until after graduation.
I also tell students via my syllabuses where they can find my social media policies. If they don’t read them and send me a Facebook friend request, I decline it and send them an email telling them about my policy.
Students seem to understand my policies. I think many of them look forward to becoming my Facebook friends post-graduation. I certainly enjoy keeping contact with alumni in this manner. Not worry about potential student/professor-related conflicts makes the social media experience better for us all.