TweetMemeFace+: Being Friends with Professors
For me, the weirdest part of the transition from high school to college was that it suddenly became socially acceptable to be friends with professors on Facebook. I’m now privy to political links from my old academic advisor, the relationship status of the professor I TA’d for last semester, and 80′s photos of my favorite English professor (which are hilarious). Having a small glimpse into the personal lives of my professors is amusing, and it allows them to keep track of what I’m up to, if they would like–useful for making sure they don’t forget who I am.
But, with great power comes great responsibility. Here are some rules for keeping social media relationships with professors useful, amusing, and not-creepy.
Put them in their own group: I’m talking specifically about Facebook here–the public nature of Twitter should mean it’s professor-safe already. Professors and other school administrators should go in their own Facebook group so that you can give that group custom privacy settings. If your Facebook is mostly populated by occasionally-stupid twenty-somethings (which it should be, since you’re in college), make sure that they cannot see any content that is created by someone other than you, like wall posts from friends.
Don’t complain about class where they can see you: Professors should never let them see you criticize another professor personally, and they really shouldn’t see you complaining about themselves. When it comes to negativity, hide the professors on status updates that are just complaining, and allow them to see ones where you’re proposing action (like a petition or a protest). You don’t want to seem annoying or put them in an awkward position–then they’ll hide you.
Don’t comment on their old photos: I find those 80′s Miami Beach photos of my English professor that I mentioned a few paragraphs ago deeply amusing. However, I’m not going to comment on them because that is incredibly creepy–just like it would be if he commented on the photos I have posted of my recent beach trip. If the interaction could even possibly be misconstrued, don’t do it.
Do comment on appropriate shared links: My old academic advisor is a southern historian. This spills over onto her Facebook page, where she posts pop commentary on the same subjects she does academic work with. The links are usually interesting, and I wouldn’t have seem them without being friends with her. If a professor posts something like that, feel free to comment on the article–it makes you look engaged.
Wait until they’re no longer evaluating you: Don’t friend anyone–TA or professor–who is still in a position of power over you. All of the professors I’m friends with on Facebook (with the exception of one professor who friends all of his students) were added after I was done with whatever courses they were teaching. Academic advisors have some leeway, since they’re unlikely to be grading you, but anyone else should be done teaching you before you start social networking–it saves hurt feelings and an appearance of impropriety.
Do you have any tips for being Facebook friends with professors? Do you have any topics you’d like to see in TweetMemeFace ? Let us know in the comments!