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Facebook Revisited–New Policies for Professors April 25, 2011

Posted by Nina Rosenstand in Culture, Education, Nina Rosenstand's Posts, Teaching.
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It’s taken a while, but there is finally a growing realization among professors that “friending” their students is not such a good idea.  And school administrators are certainly also catching on. This from The Guardian (UK):

Teachers are being warned not to “friend” pupils on Facebook amid concerns over the blurring of boundaries between school staff’s professional and private lives.

In a fringe meeting at the National Union of Teachers’ annual conference on Sunday, teachers were told that pupils are getting access to potentially embarrassing information about teachers on their Facebook pages, while headteachers and school governors are increasingly using information posted on social networking sites to screen candidates for jobs.

Karl Hopwood, an internet safety consultant and former headteacher, told the NUT fringe meeting: “The line between private life and professional life is blurred now because of social media.”

The same concerns extend to the world of college professors and students, sharing a daily environment—but on a professional level, not a personal one. That distinction needs to be reestablished in this age of the social media, regardless of what Mark Zuckerberg may think about the declining value of the concept of privacy. I talked about the subject on this blog last year, where I explained my take on professors friending students (and got a great deal of very interesting comments), and my concerns then have only been confirmed in the past year. In the real world you have to be able to distinguish between who is your colleague, who is your client (for lack of a better word), who is your acquaintance, and who is your Friend…and then all the others who are just faces on Facebook.



1. forrest noble - April 25, 2011

Not sure there is a philosophical “take” on this subject but agree there is a real “risk-benefit” dilemma involved with teachers fraternizing with students on a personal level. The teacher seemingly always has more at risk and should be more cautious.

Beyond the personal level, the social network arena puts it out there for all to view. This seemingly would almost always be risky for the teacher.

Friendliness is a very desirable characteristic for a teacher/ prof. like most all professions but facebook type exposure which is outside the professional arena, I believe, could result in misinterpreted motives whether the teacher is male or female.

2. Paul J. Moloney - April 29, 2011

If the pursuit of philosophy is a discipline, and it is, then in order to do philosophy, at least to do it well, one has to discipline their discourse or conversation, whether or not such discourse or conversation belongs to philosophy proper.

3. Marc Berns - May 11, 2011

I agree to a certain extent that professional and private lives should be kept separate between teachers and students. When I was in high school, my freshman English teacher was fresh out of college, and we shared similar interests in music. We became friends on Myspace, the dominant social media site at the time, and other classmates did the same. Since he was in his mid-20s he led an active social life…and pictures of him partying soon spread throughout the school. It was embarrassing for both him and the administration. As a result of his fraternization with students, he had to delete his Myspace account.

On the other hand, my English teacher during my senior year of high school was friends with nearly every one of her students on facebook. She is married and has grown children, so the embarrassment from a social life was not applicable. She truly cared about her students and wanted to better connect with us. To this day, I’m still friends with her on facebook.

I believe this issue depends on the individual teacher. If they are young and partying then being friends with students on social media sites is not the wisest choice. However, if they are settled down in life and just want to better connect and keep in touch with their students, then it is acceptable. I feel that teachers can be both mentors and friends–the relationship does not need to be strictly professional.

4. Paul J. Moloney - August 12, 2012

I have had my reservations about facebook for a long time. I in fact signed on and then got off. It struck me as being superficial. Though this was the impression that facebook gave me, circumstances made me change my mind about facebook, or at least give it another try.

For years I have been writing philosophy at coffee shops in the morning. More than a year and a half ago circumstances curtailed my writing philosophy in the morning, though I was able to do more reading. It is frustrating to see people having the opportunity to be as stupid as they want, while you, yourself, don’t have the opportunity to at least attempt to write something intelligent.

I thought about creating my own blog site for philosophy, but my computer is too outdated to handle a blog site. Even though I may not have had an audience, the blog site would have at least given me the chance to write philosophy. In my desperation I started thinking about facebook again. It was free and could serve as a blog site. I now have a facebook page that is directed primarily to philosophy.

A few former high school classmates are friends, as are a few family members, people not especially interested in philosophy. If my peers do not laugh my philosophy off facebook, I must be doing at least okay. I made the disclaimer that the people I know are not interested in philosophy, so I do not want to force philosophy on them. On the other hand, the people I do not know and who are interested in philosophy, are people on whom I do not want to force myself.

Anyway, time will tell if philosophy on facebook works out. There is also a Bertrand Russell facebook site. As many people as there are on that site, it seems hardly anyone makes comments. It makes me feel somewhat funny to make comments on Bertrand Russell when hardly anyone else does.

5. Nina Rosenstand - August 26, 2012

Paul, you’re an old and valued friend to this blog. Feel free to post the URL of your philosophy Facebook page here.

Paul J. Moloney - August 28, 2012

Actually, my philosophy theme has lost it’s steam. Three of the people on my facebook page are fellows I went to high school with. We went to Bishop Amat Memorial High School in La Puente, California. That’s the beauty of writing for fellows you went to high school with from 1967 to 1971. The particulars! You can bring up having cheated on a exam in Fr. Louie’s Latin class. When it came to correcting the exam the fellow across from you would simply fill in the answers. Father Louie must have known it was impossible to teach most of us.

All the particulars come back to life when you can relate them to someone else who knows them. The past is something very definite and philosophy has to do with the definite. I try to throw some philosophy into the mix, but then I have to prove the relevance of the philosophy that I throw in.

Bishop Amat is a Catholic high school on the same street now that it was back in 1967. I remember the streets I walked to get there. I remember Father Barry having suspended me for smoking on the sidewalk outside the student parking lot. Someone let me finish their cigarette; it wasn’t even mine! Father Barry had been using binoculars. I never did get caught smoking on campus. It’s amazing to think that the person in high school is the same person you are now, with some modifications.

Some of us were typical stupid guys. We talked about how bad the girls were at our school while talking about much better they were at other schools. High school is a very unique time period in life. It is the last time we are around so many people our own age who have somewhat similar background.

I started to come back to my senses towards the end of my senior year. I was one of those people in high school, maybe the only one, who was deliberately stupid in order to keep my father from taking credit for any success of mine. I am also one of those people who think philosophy should be introduced to the high school level. These are the kind of things I ended up saying on facebook.

6. Paul J Moloney - September 20, 2012

If anyone cares to see the friends of Bertrand Russell on his facebook page, one might be able to suggest to me why there are so few comments on his page. It amazing how many attractive women are friends with a dead philosopher. Maybe they are too busy being attractive to make comments.

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