Thursday, March 20, 2008

Facebook ethics

James Joyner has an interesting post about the question of whether college professors should be Facebook "friends" with their students, and comes down harshly against the idea. This in response to a New York Times piece on the subject.

Maintaining a proper student-teacher relationship is obviously important, and I'm not a professor, so I've never considered this issue. Facebook is a very powerful tool for networking and communication, which is how I use it: A sort of combination of dayplanner, e-mail and Rolodex. I check Facebook at least as often as I check my e-mail account, and get an e-mail alert each time I get a new Facebook message, so sending me a Facebook message is even more effective than e-mail, if someone really needs to reach me.

Using Facebook that way, I don't consider "friending" someone as purely a social thing. As a journalist, I "friend" PR people, bloggers, other journalists, sources of various kind, et cetera. And I've set up a feed so that all my blog posts are posted at my Facebook page, where my Facebook friends can see them and, hopefully, will click over and read. Facebook can thus be a way to boost readership, so the more friends the better, as far as I'm concerned.

On the other hand, I understand that many people -- and college professors would be one such category -- have special reasons to restrict their Facebook activity.

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