It’s not appropriate to friend request your professors on Facebook while you are enrolled in their courses. Period. Discussion over.
Just like you, I’m aware that millions of people are on Facebook, and we live in a society where being connected to everyone at all hours seems to be the norm.
With technology so accessible and convenient now, oversharing doesn’t receive an afterthought, and boundaries quickly become blurry. It’s almost as if we are at a point where if you interact with people, hearing their opinion and seeing their pictures is only the next logical step.
I’m here to say that college students need to take a step back and reflect on the ramifications of friend requesting their professors on Facebook. There are consequences associated with a professor seeing all your posts and pictures. Facebook friendship is extremely different from mentorship, the encouraged way to build a relationship with professors. Below are five reasons to hold off sending that friend request.
1. It blurs the boundaries.
During the semester, a professor is evaluating your participation and grading your work. While I’m all for professors relating to their students and being accessible to them, there is still a power differential. That can become confusing if students see their professors relaxing with friends, dressing in casual clothes and posting silly status updates about their life.
2. You aren’t friends with your professor.
Professors care about their students, want them to be successful and gladly give career advice. However, mentorship and guidance are different than friendship. It’s not always appropriate to talk to your professors about relationship issues, family conflicts or your weekend plans. Students also shouldn’t serve as a professor’s support system.
3. Believe it or not, you don’t want your professor to know everything about you.
If a professor always sees pictures of you partying, it’s impossible to separate that information when deciding to give you an extension or write you a letter of recommendation. Fairly or unfairly, a negative opinion will also be formed if you use profanity or your friends post crude comments on your page.
4. Rejecting a friend request puts the professor in an awkward situation.
Friend request notifications are sent via email, and the recipient can see the notification pending when signing on Facebook. It’s obvious your professor sees this request, so it can be quite uncomfortable to reject a request and then see you in class the next day.
Tip for professors: If you don’t want to accept a friend request, the most polite thing to do is to send a personal message back to the requester stating you reserve Facebook just for your closest friends and family members. Then include how you do prefer to be contacted, and invite the student to office hours if they have any questions or concerns about your class.
5. The professor has contact preferences.
Are you more of an email, phone or Facebook person? Professors have contact preferences, too. While Facebook is intended to be private, professors may have a public Twitter account that you can follow, or they may be willing to connect on LinkedIn. Only initiate a friend request if the professor directly states that he or she is comfortable accepting friend requests after the semester is over and final grades are posted.
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