July 9, 2012

Into the deep end

I've been on Facebook almost a year now. I joined up last summer to create Facebook groups for my two chemistry classes, but I've been resolutely telling my students that I had no friends on Facebook at all - by choice. I had my reasons.
  • I wasn't going to start accepting friends of current students. Yes, I want to build a positive relationship with my students so that they can trust me and feel comfortable learning from or with me, but I need to maintain a professional relationship with them, leaving some distance between my private life and theirs.
  • I have heard horror stories about people saying improper/unprofessional things on Facebook in the thoughts that their comments would be read only by their friends only to find that their words went far beyond their intended targets. This past year at PHS, for example, one of my coworkers made a comment about one of our administrators on Facebook - leaving the administrators name off the comment and merely attributing it to 'a principal'. That comment quickly made its way to our administrative team - via friends of friends, parents, someone. It wasn't well received and left her a target for subsequent investigation that lead to her firing by the end of the school year. I feel that I have been diligent on this blog in offering my opinions and interests in such a way that they couldn't cost me my job, and I don't necessarily want to train myself to be as careful in another medium (Facebook).
  • I have always been prone to having a small circle of friends. As I have moved around, I have struggled to keep in contact with them - something that Facebook seems to be perfect for changing. I have, however, been happy to let more casual friends slip away as we have moved apart physically, something that Facebook seems to make tougher.
  • I am not at heart an early adopter, at least not in a lot of technologies. If anything I'm somewhere in the early or late majority. I haven't jumped into Twitter - and in fact have some pretty mixed opinions about it as I've seen it used. I waited until a billion other folks we active on Facebook before I accepted my first friend. I never made a MySpace page. I haven't IMed with anyone. I didn't dive into Google+ with the first rush. I don't flap. I kept hearing about people on Facebook and wondering what the big deal was. Sure, it let you leave little messages and post funny pictures for people, but it seemed to be a vast collection of people telling the world their minutia.
  • And, perhaps most honestly, Facebook was just another thing. I already have personal email, school email, and this blog, and a private blog that's mostly inappropriate jokes and pictures I share with my closest friends.
And yet this past week I accepted my first Facebook friend...and then I accepted about twenty more.

And I switched over to the Timeline design for my account...and added a bunch of life events (vacations, mostly)...and freaked out a few friends who I had told I wasn't taking friends on Facebook so I thought I'd take a minute to explain why I finally became a moderate adopter of Facebook.

There are probably a lot of little reasons that added together to push me over the edge.
  • I'm tired of telling people I'm not on Facebook. Yeah, I should be stronger and I should be able to forge my own path, but at some point I just seem like more of a luddite to people because I don't have Facebook than I seem normal if I just have the account.
  • I realized that I didn't have to use Facebook to tell people every time I'm pooping. I know it seems stupid that it took me a few years to realize that, but I couldn't initially figure out what else I could use Facebook to do. I see now that it can be a photo sharing site, a microblogging platform, a way of communicating with friends and former students when I wanted to, 
  • I started to see lots of my students acting as though email was beneath them, they looked at emailing the way that I look at writing a print letter. It's old technology, it's something that they simply won't do because it's too much work, it's too slow, it's old.

    Imagine the only way I would let my students communicate with me was via print letter, waiting for the letter to get to me and standing before them and yelling that I wouldn't listen to them any other way. As the ranted and raved about how important letter writing skills were for my students' futures, I would just be ignoring them and giving them the tacit message that I didn't want to talk to them, that their concerns didn't matter to me, that somehow I was looking down on them from the a self-carved bully pulpit.

    At some point that's what I was starting to feel like: a lone voice standing up on a soapbox yelling about how the rising tide, the blowing wind, the rising sun all were wrong and that my way was the better way.

So I'm on MyBook now.

Ping me...


achilles3 said...

Well my friend I will continue as the other lone voice. No FB for me.

I hope that your blog stays strong.

Ame said...

I have struggled with who I will and will not friend on FB. Initially I only added friends from high school (this is actually where they organized our 10 year reunion)or college I wanted to catch up with. Now I have several former students as friends. Since I do draw the line at not adding anyone under 18 (Mary is the only exception and I talked to her mother first) they get really excited when they go to college and add me as a friend.

As I have worked more with the ladies I advise I have learned they would rather me facebook them then email them. They can reply on their phone pretty much instantly. They also use it for organizing events. There has recently been discussion within the Greek advising community as to when we, as the responsible parties, should step in to the behaviors on facebook.

coachsullivan said...

Welcome, my friend. I won't lie...nearly had a heart attack when I was sitting at the computer and the alert popped up that you'd accepted my friend request.

I fought the good fight initially, had to be convinced by some of my players to start an account. I think what fully pushed me over the top was the workshop at a coaching convention where they showed evidence that recruits communicate more by Facebook/Twitter than they do e-mail these days. And with family spread out to Illinois, Wisconsin, and Minnesota plus friends scattered throughout the country, it's been great for putting up picture albums so they can watch the kids grow.

Plus I can leave harassing Tony Bennett-related posts for your sister...

thort said...

there are still a few of us left. We do not have a FB account either. I enjoy not being glued to a computer, tablet, or smart phone to see what the rest of the world is doing. My circle of friends is small and I like it that way!