And…. it’s finally happened.
When I moved from higher education to working at Groton School, one of the first striking realizations I had was that I now work at an institution full of minors. Because of this, there are much different boundaries that need to be established than what I was used to at the college level.
Previously, when I was working in college admissions and coaching collegiate swimming the line was clearly drawn in the sand. If you’re not in college, we are not Facebook friends. Once you’re through the gates, then we can talk about it. In general I had no problem with friending students because they were over 18, generally adult-like, and, in theory, they can make responsible decisions. Not to say that there weren’t “educational opportunities” that would arise from time to time. (I once chewed my team out for tagging photos of themselves at a party wearing their team gear. The tagging stopped quickly.)
Then things changed. Just like I didn’t think it was inappropriate to friend high school students when I worked in admissions, I continue to believe that it’s (wildly) inappropriate to friend students at the high school level with few exceptions. That’s easy. Not accepting friend requests on Facebook is a piece of cake. What I’m finding challenging is tools like Twitter.
It happened the other day. I fired off a very innocent tweet, “I’m off to the #NEK” (The NEK is the northeast kingdom in Vermont. The very rural and very Vermont part of the state). I received a very innocent response, “Tweeting while driving, Mr. Millikin?”
So now what?
My Twitter account has always been open. If it wasn’t, I wouldn’t have made the great friends and colleagues that I have. I would have missed out on a whole bunch of professional development and a couple of job opportunities. Closing your Twitter feed, just seems very untwitterish and goes completely against what I see as the true power of social media – it’s openness.
Do I censor? Censorship sucks and again goes against the openness idea. Social media is about being genuine. If I drop an F-Bomb, it’s because I genuinely mean it, and I mean it often enough that I asked the edSocialMedia guys twice if they knew who they were asking to contribute here.
It’s so much easier with Facebook. Twitter brings us into a gray area that I’m not quite sure how to deal with. Right now, I’m using the I’ll just ignore it strategy. I actually ran into the student today and he said that a friend was on his account and replied to me. He seemed to think it might be perceived as awkward as well.
I’m curious how others out there deal with this. Does your institution have a technology usage policy? Does it cover Facebook and Twitter? Have you run into this? Let me know. I’m sure I’m not the only one looking for advice.