I wrote this post a few months ago in response to a conversation with Tim St. John (who is doing some great things over on his blog that you should really check out!), but after yesterday’s #sachat about self-promotion on social media, it felt particularly germane. So here it is, in all its silly but hopefully significant glory.
A few months ago, I shared the following status on my Facebook during a late afternoon lull:
“At that point in the day where all I want is to dance in my office and eat tacos.
Is that so wrong?”
As is often the case with silly statuses during that time of day, it was popular. 30 people liked it, and ten people commented with varying levels of agreement. I suppose it was just that kind of day. But of those thirty people compelled to express their agreement, roughly ¼ were current or former students.
Right off the bat, I’ll let you know that I don’t “friend” or “follow” students on platforms that are not LinkedIn (different animal, post for another day). And my profile on Facebook is partially/largely hidden. My rule with students: “if you can find me, you can friend me. But you won’t be able to see everything.” Could I have opted to keep them from seeing my true wishes on that particular Wednesday? Well, sure. But I opted to leave it visible. And not just in hopes that someone would bring me tacos, either.
We are a field that worries tremendously about balance. Are we sleeping enough? Do we work too much? When do we see our friends? Do we have friends that aren’t our co-workers? On and on the list of worries goes. For my part, I moved to the Boston area and to my current position in large part to create a greater sense of balance for myself. That sense of balance is reflected in my Facebook statuses, the wall posts my friends leave for me, and the silly (but not inappropriate) pictures that appear there. While those artifacts have little to do with the role in which they work with me, I want my students to see them. Why? Two reasons.
The first reason may be somewhat selfish, but I’m owning that fact. If your Facebook is designed to reflect who you are, and you have a “professional” Facebook, what could that tell students? It could tell them that your professional life is your whole life. And if that’s not true, there will be a disconnect between who you are, and what you show them. From where I stand, that could feed those balance issues we talk so much about. Think about it for a minute. If you post to your Facebook or Twitter articles that you’re reading, or a message about how you’re working late, what’s to stop them from calling you at 11pm (or later!) with a question about work? As far as they’re concerned, you’re working; for all they know, you’re always working. However, when they see pictures of your friends or family, see that you have other elements to your life besides what you do with them, they will have greater incentive to treat you as such. When I leave work to go to a movie or a softball game with friends, I want them to know that! I want them to know that I have “me time”, in part because that sets a boundary- barring an emergency, after work time is for me!
But more importantly, I want them to know that once you graduate from college, being professional doesn’t have to equal being stuffy or constantly formal. In my first job out of college, I didn’t know how to walk the line between being professional and being me, and few coworkers or students got to know me as a result. I know I was harder to work with for it, and as I’ve grown as a professional, I’ve been able to create a more authentic version of my work persona. These days I am open, honest, and silly, but never to a point that would compromise my authority. And if that’s what I want for my students- for them to be adult and mature, but also themselves, I’m keenly aware that they can’t be what they can’t see.
Besides, if they can see I’d like tacos, who knows what could happen? 🙂
What do you let your students see? How does that inform how they treat you? What is your policy on finding and “friending” students?