Who is in your set of friends on Facebook?
I was recently retained among the chosen by an acquaintance who was reducing her on-line Facebook friends list to people who she actually knows and cares about. I’ve never cut back my friends list, though I suppose it’s probably a good idea. However, since I’m not a media personality, I’m not besieged by friend requests from people I don’t know, so I don’t have Facebook tribe overload.
I guess I’ve approved most Facebook friend requests I’ve received, although I won’t OK one if I don’t know the person in “real” life. I am a bit of a Facebook addict. I probably check in a couple of times a day. Mostly, I think, it’s because I enjoy seeing what comments people are making or topics they are commenting about. It’s an illustrated, more personal, Twitter feed.
It’s also a bit of a short-form blog and information exchange. I like to see links that others post and sometimes end up exchanging comments on topics of the day as a result. That’s usually a nice process, although now and then someone will do something online that’s a bit over the top. A minor cautionary note, Facebook friends, remember even in the privacy of your Facebook circle, there really is no privacy when you’re on line. Students and ex students recall what your crotchety old professor told you—if it’s stored on a computer, it can be around forever and can travel the world over at the speed of light.
Still, the brave new Facebook friendly world has been mostly positive to me.
I do have some Facebook limits, especially on “friends.” What does it mean if you’re my on-line friend—if you’ve achieved Facebook tribal status with me? Well, here are my loosely followed, subject to amendment, Facebook friendship rules:
• I’ll only friend you if I know you. I figure I should recognize you in the real world before I friend you in the virtual one. My rule is much looser on Twitter, which seems like a less personal site—I’ll be a twit to anybody, but only a friend to people I’ve met.
• If you’re my student, I won’t send you a friend request. Occasionally, a student of mine will ask to be my friend on Facebook. When one does, I’ll agree—I do have a friendly rapport with students and don’t post anything about myself I would object to their seeing. But, I don’t ask students to be my friend. It’s a matter of them using their judgment about whether they want me to see their on-line lives. There are some students with whom I interact a lot on a daily basis that I am not Facebook friends with, and a few that I know more casually that I am friends with—the difference is simple. The Facebook friends asked to friend me. I’ve not given the matter deep thought, but that’s just my own personal approach to Facebook, my way of maintaining both the positive relationship but the bit of distance that’s appropriate as a professor through a simple practice— I’ll approve a student’s friend request, but I don’t send requests to students.
• I routinely friend most relatives, as soon as I find them on Facebook, but only the adults. Like students, I’ll let younger relatives decide whether to approach me online. Again, as with students, a lack of Facebook friendship is not a mark of a lack of actual friendly relationships, but more a question of whether a young niece or nephew decides they want Uncle Joe to see their computer face. I leave that ball in their court.
• I will send requests to former students I knew while they were at Mount Mercy. Generally, I have to more than know their name—they had to have been a student I interacted with often enough to feel some friendship. Many of my MMU friends are former students who I taught in one or more course, and a few are even students I never had in class, but I knew them because they were either active on the newspaper or in some other activities that I was engaged in. Beware—if you graduated from MMU, I might someday send a friend request to you.
• I do send request to old friend when I find them on Facebook. A few of the guys I knew at Sacred Heart School in the 1960s and early 1970s are now my Facebook pals. My best friend from high school is on the list. As the Facebook demographic has aged, that’s one of the nice things the site provides—the chance to get caught up with actual long-time friends.
I’m not always consistent in following these guidelines. I’m not terribly rigid or rule-oriented with Facebook—I guess I’m more describing my Facebook habits than any set of guiding principles.
I originally joined Facebook because of the connections it helped me maintain with my own kids when they were in college. No, I wouldn’t be distant from a child of mine absent Facebook; it’s just Facebook provides a nice day-to-day connection. Two of my kids still are in college, but four have graduated. Facebook still works that way—it’s nice to see into Ben’s and Nina’s college days, but also to keep up with Amanda, Jon, Theresa and Katy in their post college lives on Facebook.
Anyway, that’s the way I like it. For the most part, I know my Facebook friends on-line and in the world. And I do enjoy seeing the news from my cyber tribe.