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Whom Should We NOT “Friend” on Social Media?

Do you “friend” your professors on Facebook? How about your supervisors or managers at work? In fact, “whether or not to friend a teacher” is an on-going debate in this nation. According to this CNN news video, 59% students are “friends” with their teachers. The majority of this group also believes that it would be easier to get their questions answered if they are “friends” with their teachers. On the other hand, the State of Missouri just passed the law, limiting the amount of contacts that a teacher may have with his/her students on social media.

While I am aware that some teachers attempted to take the “friendship” to a different level, I feel it might be a little bit too extreme if the legislation prohibits the contacts between students and teachers. Because social media have already been part of many people’s lives, being “friends” with teachers might also allow students to “understand” that their teachers are actually human beings --- they also “live and breathe,” “go shopping and partying,” just as everybody else. On top of that, there are teachers who use social media as a teaching tool to prepare their students with the adequate social media literacy for the real life. Rather, I feel the schools or legislation should provide guidelines to teachers and students, allowing them to understand what behaviors are appropriate or inappropriate on social media.

Personally, I do research on social media; I also use social media as a teaching tool. I let my students know what social media accounts I have and tell them that they are welcome to “friend” or “follow” me, but I never initiate any connections with my students (unless they have already graduated). Instead, I allow my students to choose whether they want to be my “friend” or not. I made an exception in my career management class about LinkedIn because I required all students to connect me on LinkedIn with their LinkedIn accounts. Again, many social media tools have become part of our lives --- can I teach student social media job search tactics without asking them to use LinkedIn? I have also found some students “friending” me on Facebook. Based on my conversations and interactions with my students on social media, I actually feel social media have given me the “power” of better communicating with my students. In most occasions, I can give students advices on social media. If I sense some “inappropriate” conversations or behaviors, I can be more proactive in seeking additional advices and teaching my students the “right things.”

So, if you are a student, what are your thoughts on “friending” your professors or teachers? Also, will you “friend” your supervisors at work? Why or why not?


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