Teachers & Students as Facebook Friends: Good Idea? Bad Idea?

25Aug11

If you've ever watched Animaniacs, then you recognise this guy...

As someone who greatly enjoys Social Networking, I must say that I’m a little curious as to how you all may respond to this post. I mean, I’m the type of person that connects SO well with people via Facebook. When I want to make plans with someone, I rarely email them or text them. Honestly, I don’t even call people anymore! All I want to do is write on someone’s wall…and if I feel like only seeing one friend rather than a group of people one night, I will send that person a private FB message. (I’m sneaky like that, I suppose…but I don’t feel too badly because you all do it too. Don’t deny it.)

Facebook allows me to connect with old friends from the past, friends I’ve just met, and share embarrassing photos of me running through the streets of New York like a crazy person. I mean, who doesn‘t want to see that?

Yes. This actually happened.

I must clarify, however, that this is all done through my personal account (which, by the way, I have secured to the highest possible Facebook degree, and yet random people are still able to find me…weird). I decided to branch out a little while ago and create a professional profile as well. I figured it might be nice for the people that I am in contact with on an almost-daily basis at the office to see who they’re interacting with all the way over here in Canada. Not only that, but it also allows students to get into contact with me as well, if need be. It’s a nice, informal way of interacting with the students, which they (I hope) appreciate.

And I feel like I may be taking that privilege for granted.

Apparently, Missouri has recently decided that teachers may no longer be in touch with students on Facebook. Now, I am not a teacher at my college, but I wonder how I would feel if I were in these teachers’ shoes. I mean, I understand the intentions behind the ‘Facebook Law’ and all, but is it really so harmful for teachers to be friends with students on Facebook?

I remember when I was in high school and there were times that I struggled with some homework (on the rare occasion that I actually did the homework, which is not the best strategy), and I wished that I could somehow get in contact with my teacher to ask for help. Especially if it was Saturday morning and the essay was due on Monday morning. It would have been so incredible to just write on my teacher’s wall, ask a question, get some clarification, and continue on with what I needed to do. Instead, I had to wing it and hope for the best (which is also not the best strategy, I might add…).

Not only would I have been able to get extra help from the teacher during awkward hours, but I’d be able to really get to know the teacher as well. Facebook helps you define a person based upon posted photos, and what his/her friends write on his/her wall (it’s where you can judge a Facebook by it’s cover…I know. Lame pun). We all know that when you’re in high school, you tend to have little respect for many teachers, for either them as a person or for their position of authority (I’m not talking about me, here…I’m talking about someone else. Uh…my friend…um…Jen.). I wonder if I would have seen my teachers as real people had I been at least somewhat privy to their private lives.

Or, would it have been imminent disaster?

Do teachers even still look like this anymore?? I mean...besides the eye patch? (Photo credit: http://www.uproxx.com)

 

There may have been some good that could come from the situation, but I wonder if the bad would outweigh the good. There are obviously many other questions that could arise, either of exactly what kind of a relationship a student and teacher may have, or, if a Facebook friendship is completely innocent, is it even fair to expect teachers to help students with their questions outside of class time or the school itself? Are they not entitled to have their own personal time in which they don’t have to deal with the woes of a student? Or could teachers not do as I have and create a professional profile as well as a personal one so as not to mix business and pleasure?

*Sigh* I don’t know. Having numerous profiles and carefully deciding who is added as a “friend”, and figuring out what is okay to post and what isn’t for fear of the wrong person seeing it is getting way too complicated. Maybe we should all just move to Google+… I hear they’ve figured it out.

Photo Credit: http://www.google.com

 

Do you think teachers and students can/should be Facebook friends? What are the most positive and negative points on each side of the argument? Are any of you currently friends with any of your teachers? What are your experiences with it?

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36 Responses to “Teachers & Students as Facebook Friends: Good Idea? Bad Idea?”

  1. 1 steve@bayintegratedmarketing.com

    Facebook is a means of communication. What kind of ignorance is required to stifle communication between a teacher and student? Of course one needs to keep a professional page, but it is a great way to share events, ideas, photos, etc.

    Keep your private life private: especial in college, and especially during moments like “spring break,” The web is there forever, so if you post a photo of yourself bonging heroine sticks surrounded by naked teenagers you deserve whatever consequences you get.

    The two pages don’t mix, but there is no reason that there cannot be a great professional relationship on FaceBook.

    • Hmm…that’s interesting! I would have thought that you would think that teachers and students shouldn’t mix on Facebook. Guess I don’t know you as well as I thought I did, huh? 😉

      So do you think that any harm can come from a teacher and student having a professional relationship on Facebook? What I mean by that is, do you think that, at any point in time, it may become “inappropriate” if the teacher and student communicate through an informal means?

      I agree that you need to keep your private life private, especially if you’re a student (no matter what age) and especially if you deal in any capacity with minors. I think that those minors must always see you as an authoritative figure which is rather impossible to do if you see your teacher with a drink or two in his/her hand.

      As always, thanks for dropping by and commenting, Steve! 🙂

  2. I’m sure it can be helpful, but in college I waited until after the semester was over before adding any professors. It’s hard to know how they’ll perceive certain things and I didn’t want to risk them getting a negative impression of me based on things like even my “political views,” and give me a bad grade. That shouldn’t have to have been a real concern, but I wanted to be safe instead of sorry. If I needed to ask something, I just used their email. Cool post! Love your NY photo 🙂

    • Well, I think that you were an extremely wise college student. I can understand the desire to be friends with your teachers or professors online, but it can cause issues, I think. Students may feel as though the prof may favour them if they write kind things on his/her wall, or constantly update their status saying how awesome that particular class was, etc. in the hopes of getting a good grade in that class (or there may be other intentions behind it as well). I think that teachers/professors must always be mindful of the intended outcome of Facebook friendships with students; they may think that a student wanted to be “friends” simply to get a better grade (or for other reasons) and may see that student in a different light, for better or worse. There is always a very fine line that you mustn’t cross when you’re in school, and sometimes online friendships can blur that line.

      You were very wise to be safe rather than sorry! 🙂

      P.S. There are far more embarrassing NYC photos than that one…but, yes, I did run through the streets of New York like an idiot. Thanks for dropping by and commenting! 🙂

  3. Its surely a great idea… I chat with my ex-teachers all the time !

    • But did you chat with them when you were still a student? Now, that is the question!

  4. I’m on the teacher end of things. If I taught in high school I would feel differently but…

    When I first created FB I decided no students. Shortly after I realized I was using FB as a public presence so what did it matter. Now almost everyone gets in even though that occasionally creates the weirdness I wrote about last week.

    I also tell teachers that a great option is to create a public profile page. Easy to connect that way w/out exchanging any info.

    • Always great to hear from a teacher/professor! I think that the rule book changes from high school to college, but it can still be a bit of an iffy thing, I suppose. I think that it really depends upon the teacher/professor. If you’re young and FB is just a natural part of your life (as is your case, I think) then it would make sense to add students; if not, then it may be slightly awkward for all involved…resulting in FB weirdness like you wrote about. Haha. (In case people don’t know what we’re talking about, I’ll put in the link: http://educlaytion.com/2011/08/19/facebook-weird/ ).

      I guess you could create a public profile page…but I still think that Google+ is the way to go. I’ve had a profile for a few weeks now, and although I rarely use it, I’m sure it’ll be a big hit! …eventually… 😉

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting again, Clay!

  5. These days…it’s just how it works…I think it could be a good thing….if they forget their homework or something like that. I don’t see anything wrong with it. Even though FB has really gotten on my nerves here lately. Just too much on it that I don’t like. I have started using the new Google Plus…it seems to be pretty cool!

    • Yes, I hear ya! FB is also starting to annoy me so I’m trying to venture off into the new Google+ world. The circles make SO much more sense than FB’s old friend scheme…I like to keep my world’s separate. Haha.

      I guess if a teacher really does want to connect with students, then he/she may get better use from Google+ as there will be no worries about who is going to see what, you know?

      Once again, thanks so much for dropping by and commenting! 🙂

  6. I think its really bad idea !! nice artical !! But if we are maintaing some security level to our profile it always good and can be usefull tooo!!! nice artical !!
    We architech just develop never thinks its good or bad impact !!

    • Yes, I agree that, as long as you maintain some security to your profile, social networking can be great…I’m still on the fence about the student/teacher FB friend thing, so I appreciate your comment. I figured there may be many people out there who wouldn’t think that it was such a big deal, but I’m glad to hear that there are others on the other side as well! 🙂

      Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting, Vishal!

  7. I think it is a bad idea. Students and teachers do not need to be corresponding via internet when the students are that young. A simple phone call should be sufficient. Way too easy to go down the wrong road via the web.

    Also, teachers have an influence on their students. If a teacher posts something about religion, politics or current event, etc that is ‘controversial’ it can cause a lot of problems. For the student and the teacher.

    I think it is unnecessary and not worth it. I also think that a teachers personal time should be without interruption as much as possible.

    Way too much drama and distraction on facebook. Too easy to blur the ‘professional’ relationship and complicate things.

    • Aha…another one who doesn’t think it’s a very good idea! 😉

      Yes, I can see your point on a phone call being sufficient, that there is no need to actually be FB friends, when the students are young, but what about college students? They’re usually older and can think for themselves. Should online communication with their profs be limited for them as well?

      Do you think that if a teacher/professor creates a ‘professional’ profile and chooses not to post anything relating his/her thoughts on politics, religion, etc. that it might be okay for them to ‘friend’ a student, or would it still be inappropriate?

      As always, thanks for stopping by and commenting, Mitchell! 🙂

  8. 15 Marko - Buki blog

    my ex teacher is friend of mine on facebook…maybe it is possible when become ex teacher 🙂

    • Yes, I definitely agree with you there, Marko! I think that once a student is no longer a student, then neither he/she needs to worry about “crossing the line” with a teacher, as there is nothing to be gained on either side except for friendship.

      Thanks so much for reading and commenting, Marko! 🙂

  9. I just want to say that the Animaniacs reference and picture meant I’d be “liking” this post pretty much no matter what.

    • I put that in especially for you…knew that you would probably be the only one to get that reference.

      It’s a part of Animaniacs that most people have forgotten…sad, really. Those skeletons taught me all kinds of valuable lessons, like it’s a good idea to give your dog a bath, but not to have him dry-cleaned.

      Wouldn’t have known that otherwise…

  10. Good morning Christy, I think even a professor/student facebook relationship is unnecessary and potentially harmful. For one, it looks bad since the professor is an employee of the school and is paid to teach not socialize. I think parents of the female college students would not care for their daughter befriending a male professor. It just increases the chances for misconduct to occur.

    The most professional of people can get caught up in social networking and make bad decision. Though college students are adults they can still be very vulnerable, and not to mention desperate if their grades happen to slip.

    • I think you make some good points here, Mitchell. Although college students are of an age that allows them to vote, go to a bar, and do almost anything else, they still have not had life experience in many areas, and may be naive at times. It may, in certain situations, be somewhat questionable, at least in a parent’s mind, for a professor to want to add them as friends on FB, but there are positive aspects of doing so. With college classes exceeding 100 students or more at any given time, it’s difficult for a professor to really get to know his students; FB may be a way of improving that. If a student desires to go to grad school, or needs a reference for a new job, he/she should get to know his/her professor, and perhaps FB can make that a little easier to do.

      That being said, I do think that there are harmful aspects of the teacher/student FB friendship as it’s important not to cross a line at any point, which, as you say, can happen from time to time.

      Thanks again for sharing your thoughts, Mitchell! 🙂

  11. Yeah this is a tough one. I totally see how it would be convenient to use Facebook but if it is all business then surely the schools website has a bio page on the professor and an email to reach him. I think that is a better avenue for communication. I may be wrong though, but that rarely happens. 😀

    • Haha! Yes, I’m sure it’s a rare occurrence, indeed… 😉 You have a good point, Mitchell! You may just be swaying my opinion just a little bit…

      • HEE. When I was working with the Salvation Army youth program I got a friend request from one of the kids and added him but later removed him from my list. There are too many things that can happen, ie someone posting a bad picture on my wall as a joke or just information/opinions that is suited for adult consumption.

        As far as the student/professor relationship, I think it should be all business. Is too easy for even the appearance of misconduct, etc.

        The professor is kind of property of the school and what he/she does represents the school. If there is flirting and stuff like that going on it looks really bad for the school. When the student graduates they can then befriend the professor.

        Their other ways to get class information, updates, assignments and bio of professor, etc online for everyone to see. That way their is no secret messaging etc. Like the bible says, flee all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22).

        If you are not quite swayed yet, I do have lots of chocolate. 😀

      • You had me at “chocolate”…

  12. I’d be embarrassed about students seeing my status updates. And knowing about all of my friends and seeing all of my last call pictures. I’m not sure they’d respect me and might even use it agaisnt me when grades are in question.

    • Haha…yes, I can completely understand how awkward that might be! I mean, no teacher wants their students to see them with a beer in their hand, eyes half closed, and mouth gaping in the middle of a laugh…so awkward. I think it would certainly be difficult for your students to see you the same way after a photo like that! Haha.

      But do you think it might be alright if you created a ‘professional profile’ to be friends with your students? Do you think it’s worth it or would it still be a bad idea?

      Thanks so much for dropping in and commenting, Sharon! 🙂

  13. Good discussion. I practically don’t use Facebook. Me and Facebook never really “clicked.” I have to say though, it can get awkward with teacher-student interaction on Facebook. Just wait a few weeks and you’ll hear an FB-related scandal on some campus due to some academic prof making a “dumb” mistake on Facebook. That is, of course, if it didn’t already happen.

    • Yeah, FB doesn’t really work for everyone, but it seems as though more and more teachers/profs are using it to connect with their students. I think that with the right teacher, it may work and actually be a viable form of communication between that teacher and his/her students, but, you’re right…there’s always some crazy FB scandal going on, so I wonder if it’s even worth the chance.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and commenting, Tinkerbell! I appreciate your input! 🙂

  14. I think if it’s a past professional relationship, then it’s safer and healthier. But if there is still a relationship where one has some influence over the other (teachers, bosses), I don’t it’s a good idea. It can open the door to some unpleasantness…..like my teacher knowing that I went to a party instead of studying for an exam:) or my boss knowing how I spend all the money he/she pays me:)

    • Aha! You have brought in another good point to the debate…the boss! Very interesting indeed! I wonder how everyone else feels about that as well…

      I definitely agree with what you stated earlier in that if the professional relationship is in the past, then there shouldn’t be any qualms about being FB friends. I mean, what can it hurt, right? However, if there is still, as you say, a relationship where one has some kind of influence over the other, the line may very well get a tad blurry. Once again, though, I think that depends upon the student and the teacher themselves; if the student is mature enough and if the teacher is strong enough to, in no way, cross any boundaries.

      You bring up some great points, Sisterhood! Thanks so much for stopping in and putting in your 2 cents! 🙂

  15. I really don’t know how it works in Canada, but in India Teachers can never be ‘friends’ with students. We respect our teachers more than our parents.

    Coming to your ‘professional relationship’ thing, in India we do have better personal relations with teachers! My Head Of Department decides whether I can buddy with someone and my principal advises me on whether I should be an engineer or writer. But relations are definitely not encouraged on Facebook or Google+, as they don’t find them to be ‘healthy’ platforms to communicate!

    • Yes, I think things can be somewhat different between Canada and India. We have a more laid-back approach in our teaching styles, and although I think it works well in many respects, I think it can sometimes create a blurry line. I have not been to India yet, but I have heard that teachers are among the most highly respected people there, and it a profession to which many children aspire to be. While I do think that it’s extremely important to have respect in the classroom, I think that you can cultivate respect in a number of ways, depending upon the culture. I’m not sure that the actions of teachers here would translate well in India, and vice versa.

      Thanks so much for your input, Wickedlysmart! I appreciate you taking the time to read through and let us know how things work half-way across the globe! It gives us great insight and perspective, so thanks again! 🙂

  16. Damn, that post yes was really interesting of reading ( in fact every post you write has something of interesting, tell me your secret :P). Yes, I know I’m not up-to-date with your blog but I try my best lol, so many new words for me, it’s a source of knowledge.

    Well, in fact, in my currently facebook I’ve got 2 teachers added as friends. I’m not worried at all about that, cause I know what’s the use I give to facebook. I’m not the kind of guy who’s everyday uploading compromising pictures of myself, neither the one who is always insulting others on facebook or writing on a bad way. So Im not afraid about how my teachers both could use the access to my facebook like a weapon against me.

    Anyways, if some day I thought that facebook is becoming to intimate for me, I’d message them telling the reason for what I deleted them from my face.

    Also, it’s cool, cause you can use it as a “housing” of yourself. You can make the exactly image you want the others have about you. Even if you know the way you are/speak/dress/etc it’s quite different.

    Well that was just my (delayed lol) opinion 🙂

    Great job Chris!

    • So, you’re still a student, right Javi? I understand that from a student’s perspective, it wouldn’t be a problem adding a teacher as a friend but from a teacher’s perspective, I wonder if it’s very wise. I mean, you’re not a crazy student or anything, so I’m sure your teachers have nothing to worry about (haha), but I’m thinking about those teachers that friend certain students that they probably shouldn’t…I wonder if it’s a very good idea.

      Also, if you’re in high school, I think that it’s already very dangerous ground to add a student; in college, I’m not sure it matters all that much. There are pros and cons to each side, and it’s great hearing people’s opinions on the matter!

      Javi, you’re awesome…thanks again for stopping in and sharing your thoughts! 😀

      • You know that I love to read every single word you post up there 🙂
        Im 17 years old… exactly, 17,3 years old LMFAO 😛

        This is my last year in High, so next year I’ll start going to university…can’t wait!

        And yes, I wonder that too…I’ll try just to be as careful as I can with face :S

        See you Chris! ( are you from ontario?)

      • Haha! It’s good to know that you’re exactly 17.3 years old, Javi.

        Yeah, I’m in Ontario. Toronto is the largest city in Canada and here we are, smack dab in the middle of the country in Ontario. 🙂 Are you coming for a visit soon, Javi? Toronto’s pretty awesome…I’m just sayin’…haha.


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