The Challenges and Advantages of Facebook
by Kate Wadas
UMCP Graduate Student
College Student Personnel
All across the United States college students are asking each other, ???Would you like to be my friend??? The situation sounds simple enough, but this request is unusual because the question is being asked over the Internet through the online community Facebook.com, often shortened to Facebook. Over 2000 colleges and universities and a handful of high schools have Facebook groups and if a school is not listed, it is easy to create a group under that school??™s name. All a person needs to create a Facebook account is an email address ending in .edu, which is also all that is needed to create a group for a specific school (Toomey, 2005). Within the online community, members can make friends at their own school, as well as other institutions by searching for a specific person or interest. Members can create groups to post announcements, photos, and other information concerning the group. These groups range from actual student organizations, such as a fraternity or the ski club, to groups made up for fun like ???I Heart Professor Smith??? or ???Adderall got me through finals.??? university officials, particularly those in student affairs, have begun to see the impact the Facebook has on students and their interactions with one another. Unfortunately, not all the interactions and the ways in which students represent themselves are in a positive light, which causes concern for student affairs professionals. The ways in which student affairs professionals interact with students has changed, and will continue to change, because of the Facebook and other online communities. Student affairs professionals need to decide if they should be part of these online communities, what the role of discipline is when students post inappropriate material, and how the technology can be used to the advantage of an institution.
Student Affairs Professionals on Facebook
Student affairs professionals and departments they work in need to decide what their role in the Facebook should be. Some will choose to join the Facebook and use it to their advantage, while others will shy away from the online community and let students partake in the mode of communication as they choose. Many of us have already chosen to log-on and create Facebook accounts, including myself. Even the president at the University of Iowa has an account and has almost 1000 friends and counting, although one must be aware that Facebook names can be created falsely, as many institutions have fabricated profiles for their presidents (Jaschik, 2005). If a student affairs professional decides to create a Facebook profile, here are few questions to consider:
1. Should I fill out the entire profile How much do students need to know about me, such as my sexual orientation, if I am in a relationship, or what my interests are These questions should be filled out how the person represents oneself professionally.
2. How will I decide who my friends will be Some students may request you to be their online friend, but some of these students will also have questionable material on their profiles, such as photos of them drinking underage. How will you deal with these students
3. Should I join any of the online groups Some students may ask you to be a part of some of their groups, which might be groups made up for fun. Once again, think about how you would like to represent yourself professionally and what the advantages and disadvantages to joining these groups are.
Judicial Affairs and Facebook
It is exciting to be a part of students??™ lives through the Facebook, but it is also important to
think about what the role of student affairs professionals is when stumbling upon inappropriate material on a student??™s profile. Some universities and colleges have made decisions about how much of a role Facebook will have in judicial proceedings, while others deal with situations one at a time, although departments within a division of student affairs may often be inconsistent in how they address Facebook related issues (Carnevale, 2005; Epstein, 2005. At this point in the evolution of student communication and the Internet, it is important for student affairs divisions and judicial offices to begin to create policies and develop consistency in how staff should deal with questionable material on Facebook that is brought to their attention. Two items which can help in creating these policies are an institution??™s mission statement, as well as the division and department mission statements. Regardless of whether one??™s university has begun to create such policies so as to guarantee uniformity and fairness for its students, each student affairs professional does have a duty to discuss with students the questionable material which may come up on one??™s profile. The American College Personnel Association??™s Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards (2003) calls professionals to ???Confront students regarding issues, attitudes, and behaviors that have ethical implications??? (p. 673). If one happens to come upon a photograph or a student belonging to an inappropriately named Facebook group, ACPA calls upon its members to have a discussion with the student to help the student think about the effect the actions have on how others view the student, the groups the student is a part of, or the institution.
Advantages of Facebook
Although many teachable moments arise because of inappropriate Facebook actions, there are some advantages to using Facebook. One advantage is that student organizations can use the Facebook for organizing and announcements, as opposed to using traditional listservs. Students can log-on at a time which is convenient for them and see what is new with the student organization, as opposed to filling their inboxes with multiple emails a day about announcements or schedule changes. Facebook can also be used to advertise events and other involvement opportunities. The ads cost between ten and twenty dollars a day, depending on the size of the institution, and can be posted by any member of an institution??™s group (Facebook, 2005). One example of a successful advertisement was at the University of Maryland when the Community Service-Learning office recently had success posting advertisements for its spring break service trip applications and found that several students had heard about the opportunity through the Facebook announcements. These advertisements seem to be more cost efficient and effective than a traditional student newspaper ad since students log-on multiple times a day to check their Facebook accounts. As students and staff continue to use the Facebook, it is certain more positive uses for the Internet community will be discovered and is important that professionals share this valuable information with one another.
Facebook is changing how students interact with each other, but also how student affairs professionals interact with students. It is important for these professionals to be conscious of how they are representing themselves in the online communities, as well as how students interact with others on Facebook. Many institutions have mission statements or ethics statements which call upon administrators, staff, and professors to have discussions with students when the students are participating in questionable behavior. The ACPA ethics principles also state that its members should have talks with students about these same problematic actions. Even though there are many situations which can be difficult to address with students concerning the Facebook, students can also teach student affairs professionals the advantages of the online community. Some of these interactions may also improve the quality of relationships student affairs professionals have with their students. Facebook is an online community and way for students to communicate with each other that seems as though it will continue to be something the students enjoy and use daily. Student affairs professionals need to be aware of this and begin to develop consistent and fair ways of how to deal with the Internet community, as well as how to use it to their advantage.
America College Personnel Association. (2003). Statement of ethical principles and standards. In S.R. Komives & D.B. Woodward, Jr. (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (4 th ed.; pp. 668-675). San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
Carnevale, D. (2005, December 5). Penn drops charges against student who posted online photos of nude couple. The Chronicle of Higher Education. Retrieved December 5, 2005, from http://chronicle.com/temp/email.phpid=k3ylane57sfz5ebz1jy7zw6oys73nqot
Epstein, D. (2005, October 3). Cleaning up their online acts. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved December 7, 2005, from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/10/03/online
Facebook. (2005). Facebook announcements. Retrieved December 31, 2005, from http://www.facebook.com/announce.php
Jaschik, S. (2005, March 16). A president with a lot of friends. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved December 7, 2005, from http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2005/03/16/facebook3_16
Toomey, S. (2005, November 14). Facebook is new who??™s who for students. Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved December 10, 2005, from http://www.suntimes.com/output/education/cst-nws-face14.html |? | |
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