Social media affects all individuals, whether they may realize it or not. Most everyone uses it in some form or another, and this can create some awkward situations in real-life. When used in an academic setting, however, it can cause concern for all involved. What crosses the line into too much personal information and/or interaction?
I went to a small, private university. During this time, most students used some sort of instant messaging service, whether it be through MSN or AOL. I used AOL instant messenger every day, and would update my away messages with my current schedule for the day, where I was going, quotes, how I was feeling, etc. I never thought twice about it (although I should have been much more private) until I realized that some professors were adding me as their friend. They could see everything I posted, my profile, and we could chat privately.
College is definitely a different type of environment. It is more socially acceptable for students and teachers to develop friendships, especially as many may be close in age. However, I found that one professor became too personal with me. He began to comment about where I was, became aware of other friendships I had outside of school, and would even make inappropriate jokes and comments via the instant messaging service. It was uncomfortable, and because no clear lines had been drawn and I did not want to be seen as a bad sport, I allowed it to continue. This may not be standard practice today at that particular university, but there should have been guidelines in place so that students and teachers were not placed in these situations. I can only imagine how Facebook or similar services could create even more intimate environments, due to the availability of private chats and messages, pictures, and videos.
I recently graduated from a Masters program, and there were certainly more clear guidelines set in place. Social networking was encouraged (via LinkedIn, etc.), but personal friendships with professors were discouraged as long at the student was in the professor’s class. This worked well, as we all knew what was expected of us and of our professors.
Using social media in our classes was definitely encouraged. We worked as small groups in order to create websites, chatted online, and completed other group projects this way, as much of our program was via online coursework. No particular websites were blocked, and no particular type of social media was discouraged. This worked well, as we were all adults and understood the rules and regulations.
Social media can be extremely useful in academic environments, and I imagine the usefulness will only continue to grow as new social media tools emerge. It is important to have clear guidelines set in place so that abuse does not occur, and so social media can continue to be utilized throughout one’s educational experiences.