In researching an article about Facebook use that appears in the latest issue of University Business, the author interviewed college students about Facebook and their use of this social network. Some of the answers are revealing. When asked if they think college faculty or administrators (librarians could fit into either category) should use Facebook or MySpace here is what students had to say:
“No. College faculty and administrators are there to be professional and, well, administrative. Facebook and MySpace, to me, are seen more for fun and a way to keep in touch with people that you don’t see every day or to find old friends. If our professors need to get in touch with us, they should e-mail us.”
“I don’t think it is appropriate for them to try very hard to be buddy-buddy with me, or know my personal business.”
“Facebook is primarily for me, my friends, and occasionally cruising purposes. It’s not for my enemies, it’s not for my parents, and when I get on Facebook I don’t hope that my logic professor, or the president of the college, saw my status today.”
“For the most part, no. I’d much rather they stay out of it. However, I do have one professor who is known for being fairly hip. He’s on Facebook and I have no problem with this because I know he’s not going to abuse that position.”
Whenever I’ve directly asked students this same sort of question – do they think I should have a Facebook page – I’ve received similar responses. It can range from a flat out “don’t even go there” to a “You can create a profile but I won’t look at it” reaction. This leaves me puzzled because according to a number of library pundits I should be in Facebook, MySpace or both, and the reason is because that’s where the students are. So who am I to believe? The students or the pundits? I’ve been thinking about this since I first blogged about where academic librarians might fit into the student social networking scene.
I think neither group may be all right or all wrong. My thinking is that a librarian profile in Facebook will like work best when some form of personal contact has already been made, and there is a working relationship with the student(s). In other words, if a face-to-face connection has been made, it could be extended to a social network. But just going in cold with no student connections – that’s not likely to result in much serious attraction to the profile. In other words, if you want to give this a try, first find out if your students are likely to pay your profile much attention at all. Otherwise you might end up with a few “friends”, but none that really would want to develop the type of working relationship we’d like.