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To Friend, Follow, or Connect?
July 5, 2011 - 8:15pm

Does your institution regulate your contact with students on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn? I've read several conversations about whether or not we should connect with students in online social spaces. Scores of professionals seem to insist on grouping every single social media site into an "all or nothing" / "yes or no" scenario. My opinion is that social media are far too nuanced for one "policy" that covers every site. Here is my take on the top three social media sites. Agree, disagree, that's okay with me, but at least note that not every social media site is the same.

  • Facebook: Having been in student affairs for 10 years (and on Facebook for 6), my professional policy has been to only friend current students if they first request to be friends with me. My presence on Facebook is a combination of my personal stories and professional endeavors. If a student wishes to read about my life that is their prerogative. I've enjoyed staying in touch with my former students via Facebook. "Friending" someone on Facebook does not mean that I endorse their behavior or posts. It's preposterous to think otherwise. In fact, I think that professionals who are so worried about the appearance of impropriety are most-likely in need of a mirror. What are you posting that is so troublesome that you don't want your students to read, see, or watch? Allow your students to be your "friend" on Facebook...or don't. It's actually a personal preference. It's your call...
  • Twitter: I've followed several students on Twitter. I've also unfollowed several students. Tweets are only 140 characters in length. My tweets are publicly viewable by anyone and I've been able to send short communiques to students via Twitter. Again, following a student does not mean that I support whatever they post to the site. If you follow a student, be prepared to read microblog posts about the weather, their classes, and all sorts of other "notable" minutiae. I would imagine if you are already following your students on Twitter, that you are fairly adept with the platform. Well done!
  • LinkedIn: LinkedIn is the social media professional networking site. Connecting with current or former students can be quite beneficial as students can see how you model professionalism via a social network. A recent discussion thread on a student affairs association group was fairly split in terms of whether or not practitioners should connect with students. LinkedIn is a professional networking site. I would wager that for folks who generally don't follow students on any site (e.g. counselors/psychologists), the decision is fairly clear. However, for most other professionals, choosing not to connect is mostly a reflection of a lack of fluency with the site. Connect with students on LinkedIn. Add them to your network. I promise it will be okay.

Do you agree? Why? Why not?

Do you tweet? Let's connect. Follow me on Twitter.


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