I pulled my head out of a grant proposal writing daze long enough this past week to notice a fellow professor having some trouble with their Facebook privacy settings. Seems that a religion professor at Dartmouth thought it would be funny to point out the verbosity of some of her colleagues. Even better, she worried aloud:
“I feel like such a fraud,” she wrote on her profile. “Do you think dartmouth parents would be upset about paying $40,000 a year for their children to go here if they knew that certain professors were looking up stuff on Wikipedia and asking for advice from their Facebook friends on the night before the lecture?”
Unfortunately, said professor was not careful enough with her privacy settings and a screenshot of her profile with the above quote wound up on the student newspaper’s blog. She probably joined the Dartmouth network and didn’t realize that everyone on that network could see her page.
The Chronicle article points out that its readers would be scurrying to Facebook to check their privacy settings, which is of course exactly what I did. I’d like to think that I am way too savvy to make a mistake like this, but then I googled myself, found that my Facebook page was the second hit, and realized that my profile picture is totally public. I’m not having a Phelpsian moment, but it is a particularly goofy shot of me and my 3 1/2 year old daughter, and not what I want to put out there as my professional face. So I made the picture private and blocked my Facebook page from Google.
One other sticky point in using Facebook as an academic. Do you friend students? I came up with some personal rules on the fly as friend requests started to come in. I decided to only friend students after they graduate (or leave my University for other reasons). I feel bad ignoring friend requests from people that I like, but decided to set that barrier between my work and home life. I have accumulated a lot of former students as friends, and hope current students won’t be so offended by the put off that they will not friend me later. And I don’t send friend requests to former students myself. I wouldn’t want to hang out at the creepy treehouse either. However, I have made an exception for former research students, and they have not been too creeped out to accept.
If you are a prof, leave me comments on how you manage your Facebook page. I know you have one.