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Posts Tagged ‘Facebook’

When media outlets celebrate anniversaries, it seems that they are also required to promise that rather than resting on their laurels, they are working on new and exciting things for the future. As a sociologist, I recognize the importance of adhering to social norms, so I am happy to announce that after five years, Memoirs of a SLACer now has a presence on Facebook.

On a basic level, this means that if you haven’t subscribed or added this blog to your RSS reader, you can “Like” it on Facebook and receive updates in your news feed when there are new posts. Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook will also fill a few other roles, though. Most importantly, it will let me post links to things that are related to academia and the liberal arts that I don’t have time to comment on or that don’t fit into the posting schedule that I may or may not have.

The most noticeable change, though, will likely be the addition of this annoying line at the end of each post:

“Like” Memoirs of a SLACer on Facebook to receive updates and links via your news feed.

 

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Because I’m a sociologist with lots of Facebook friends who are also sociologists, my Facebook news feed can be a pretty depressing place. Facebook tends to be my source for stories like that of Shannon Gibney, who was accused of racial discrimination by three white students (Nathan Palmer has a nice discussion of the reasons that white men are much less likely to be accused of these sorts of things). For this reason, it was nice to see a post by Eric Grollman at Conditionally Accepted discussing the positive ways that academic allies have affected his career and calling for academic communities to share the responsibility for support. I have to admit that I have been conditioned by the constant information about terrible people in the world to expect the worst as Grollman set up each scenario, which made it particularly heartening to read about the responses he received. These sorts of responses may not make headlines but they can make a difference in the lives of our students, friends, and colleagues.

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Tuesday night, the most exciting thing to watch was not available on TV, it was only available as a web stream. Texas State Senator Wendy Davis’s attempted filibuster of Senate Bill 5, which would have make abortions in Texas very difficult to obtain, and its aftermath, were far more interesting than anything on cable news late at night. As this post at Buzzfeed highlights, however, the cable news channels were focused on things like reruns and the number of calories in blueberry muffins. This post at Medium.com gives a good rundown of the experience of watching the stream of the proceedings online with others on social media sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Tumblr.

Davis’s filibuster, and the public filibuster that followed and prevented the Texas State Senate from voting before the midnight deadline was ultimately successful (although it took until after 3 am for them to admit it), though this success is likely short-lived, as Governor Rick Perry has scheduled another special session starting July 1 that will likely end in the passage of the bill. Nevertheless, as this Slate article suggests, Davis’s filibuster raised the profile of a bill that Texas hoped to pass quietly and may have revitalized the Democratic party in Texas.

Beyond the fate of Senate Bill 5, Davis’s filibuster was one part of an online explosion this week signaling the death of TV news. In addition to the fact that coverage of the filibuster was not available on TV, news of the Supreme Court’s rulings on important cases such as the Voting Rights Act and DOMA marked the first time that I turned to Facebook for news, first repeating the basic rulings and then linking to the best sources for insight and analysis – the sort of role that TV news would usually play. Even the ESPN analysts on tonight’s NBA draft program are referring to information about trades that they have received via Twitter.

As a freshman in college, my 20th Century History professor told the class that if there was ever a war or terrorist attack (this was after Oklahoma City but before 9/11) he would not be in class because he would be sitting on his couch watching CNN. This week, I imagine that he spent his time online, glued to Twitter.

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Once in a while for the past few years, I have received “An Invitation to Connect on LinkedIn,” typically from a former student. These invitations arrived in my inbox despite the fact that I did not actually have a LinkedIn account. Recently, however, I started receiving invitations from former students and decided that LinkedIn might actually be a better way to keep track of what sorts of professional lives my former students are leading than Facebook. The obvious benefit is that I can keep track of these professional lives without being inundated by information about the associated private lives. Since joining, I’ve made over 20 “connections,” some of which are with former students while others are with friends and former colleagues.

So far, it has worked well for keeping track of occupations, etc., but I was shocked by how intrusive LinkedIn is. (I probably shouldn’t have been so surprised since I received such a large number of requests before I even had an account.) Most surprising was the fact that LinkedIn wants very badly to access my e-mail accounts so that it can suggest possible connections. In fact, it reminds me of this every time I log in. Although I understand that the site is designed to keep track of professional contacts, LinkedIn’s “Endorsements” in a wide variety of things seems unnecessary to me. I don’t care if somebody has endorsed me for higher education!

In all, I hope that LinkedIn will be useful but I would appreciate if it did so without being so annoying.

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From MSN (though it has been covered numerous other places as well), here is another example of a teenager’s backstage statements causing frontstage problems. As the article states:

The lawsuit raises the complicated — and quite unsettled — legal quandary that balances students’ constitutional rights with schools’ needs to maintain order and a positive educational environment. For example, can schools punish students who publicly criticize school officials on their own time using social networks?

Federal district courts have handed down contradictory decisions on that issue. Facing a chance to settle the matter, the U.S. Supreme Court in January declined to hear three cases on the issue.

But private social media criticism, intended only for a limited audience behind a password or a privacy wall, raises a different legal issue, said Teresa Nelson, a lawyer for the ACLU in Minnesota.

“The notion that it was a search of her private Facebook content … the Fourth Amendment applies,” she said.  “The government has to have a really good reason to do that kind of search,” and would need a court order in most cases, she said.

Situations like this demonstrate that even the ability to choose who is allowed to see the content you post on Facebook is not always enough. With this in mind, I offer the following advice to classmates, coworkers, and anybody else who wants to complain about their public lives in private:

Facebook is not for venting! Even if you choose who can see your posts you may find yourself needing to explain them to your friends, parents, school officials, bosses, or college professors. If you want to vent, do it in a Google Document that is accessible only to you and a few close confidants. Facebook is the equivalent of writing a comment in somebody else’s yearbook. Google Documents are the equivalent of passing a note to a few of your friends. Yes, there is still a chance that it might fall into the wrong hands, but that chance is vastly diminished.

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In graduate school, my policy on Facebook friend requests from students was that I would only accept them as friends after the semester was over. Since the likelihood of them having another class with me was very low I didn’t worry about them seeing ridiculous pictures of me and subsequently losing all respect for my authority in the classroom. When I started teaching at my current position, where the likelihood of interacting with the same students in multiple semesters is much greater, I changed my policy to reflect this by telling students that I would only accept their friend requests after they graduate.

Recent efforts to keep track of alumni, combined with Facebook’s movement of group management to a more convenient location (thanks Google+!), have led me to change my policy again. It turns out that students are more likely to send friend requests when they are in your classes than when they are not. This makes trying to build an online community of departmental alumni difficult after the fact. My new policy is to accept current students as friends while placing severe restrictions on the parts of my profile they can access. Students don’t see the pictures from my night at the bar with grad school friends, but they can see my status update about a recent sociologically-relevant headline.

Since I have only recently changed my policy and I am not advertising this change to students, I can’t evaluate the success of this change yet. The potential downside is that students may not control what their professors can and cannot see, so I’ll have to be careful to keep their photos of drunken nights and their ability to write and participate in class separate when grading.

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The video above, in which a parent reads a letter his daughter had posted on Facebook, criticizes her, and then shoots her laptop nine times, reinforces my previous statement that while public information on the internet is not private, private information is not necessarily private, either. The video has gone viral, receiving over 18 million views in the past five days, with over 92% of the people who submitted an opinion about it “liking” it. Among my Facebook friends, many of whom are parents themselves, it has received an overwhelmingly positive response, with comments that indicate they would like their own children to receive this sort of treatment.

Apparently, the birth of a child is enough to make us forget what it is like to be a teenager.

The friend who posted the video on Facebook, for example, had some rocky times with his own parents and even had the nerve to occasionally complain to his friends about them. The main difference between him and Hannah, the unseen daughter in the video, is that he shared his complaints in person while she displayed them for her friends on Facebook. Hannah, like many who grow up with these things, was aware of Facebook’s privacy settings and had hidden the post from her parents. Unfortunately for her, she probably also told Facebook to keep her signed in so that her father was able to view her full page when updating her computer.

Although I haven’t seen any responses from Hannah (her computer has been destroyed, after all), I fear the ramifications of losing the comfort of a backstage due to technology. How would my friend’s teenage years have been different if he couldn’t complain about his parents to me without them finding out? How would his life be different now if he could never come home and complain about his boss or go out with his friends and complain about his wife or children? Venting about minor problems likely prevents major explosions, but those who like this father’s tactics don’t seem to understand that that’s what Hannah was doing. I’ve read articles speculating that in the future drunken pictures won’t be a reason not to hire somebody (or elect them president) because we will be desensitized to people’s backstage activities. We’re clearly not there yet.

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I was recently reminded of my reflections on academic behavior by Tenured Radical’s recent admission that:

As it turned out, I was unable to sit through a meeting that bored me without fidgeting, texting, whispering to my neighbor, and going on Facebook repeatedly to update all my “friends” (many of whom were in the room) about my status. Status as what? Status as a middle-aged person who has utterly lost patience with meetings? Status as someone who has utterly lost hir manners?

I have to admit that there have been times in the past year where I sent text messages during faculty meetings – usually to let my wife know that I was not going to be home anywhere near the expected time.  I find it interesting, though, that Tenured Radical blames Facebook for her behavior:

If it were not for the mileage I get for this blog from being on Facebook, I would definitely punish myself by canceling my account, since my behavior yesterday seems like de facto proof of cerebral and personality changes that have been wrought by this particular form of new media. I wasn’t even able to sit there quietly reading The Atlantic on my iPhone, which is the kind of non-disruptive behavior that many fifth graders with ADD have mastered.

As I’ve said before, I strongly believe that the bad use of technology is a symptom, not the disease.

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Once upon a time, my Facebook account was a peaceful place where I could converse with my grad school friends about grad school things.  Then my sister showed up.  Her statements, visible to all of my grad school friends, that I was “a dork” did not fit with the grad student identity that I had constructed.  Although I accept the fact that a large percentage of grad students are dorks, we prefer to think of ourselves as idiosyncratic intellectuals.  As George Costanza might say, worlds were colliding. Since that time, of course, the rest of the world has appeared on Facebook, changing the dynamics entirely, as a recent episode of South Park highlights.

A few days ago, the LA Times reported (via Contexts) that, “Just because popular social networks, such as Facebook and Twitter, encourage members to use their actual identities doesn’t mean people are presenting themselves online the way they do in real life.”  Of course, for sociologists the idea that there is one representation of a person’s real personality is somewhat ridiculous.  This was highlighted by recent posts at Crooked Timber in response to Facebook Overlord Mark Zuckerberg’s statement that

“You have one identity,” he emphasized three times in a single interview with David Kirkpatrick in his book, “The Facebook Effect.” “The days of you having a different image for your work friends or co-workers and for the other people you know are probably coming to an end pretty quickly.” He adds: “Having two identities for yourself is an example of a lack of integrity.”

Personally, I find the idea that presenting yourself in different ways to different people can be seen as a lack of integrity by anybody outside of politics hilarious, and Healy links the idea to a potentially disastrous breaching experiment:

“Hey, I want to present the same public face to everyone, and see what happens! My hypothesis is that people will freak out and maybe some bad things will happen!”

Maybe Zuckerberg’s real goal with the increasingly complex Facebook privacy settings is not world domination through advertising but the elimination of a major element of social psychology!  For what it’s worth, Zuckerberg is currently failing because, despite the fact that family members can see my comments to family members and vice versa, I have not started making comments to my family members about the intricacies of life as an assistant professor, nor have I started making comments to my friends about how big of a dork I am.

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From a Facebook friend’s status update:  “5 more days of teaching then 115 days off…bitches!”

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