I have a Facebook account. I created the account about five or six years ago because I had read about Facebook while reading materials for my Internet law course. Social networking/Web 2.0 was the new thing and I wanted to understand it. Viewing the site required creating an account, limited at the time to those with .edu addresses. I looked at the site for 15 minutes, logged out, and didn’t look at it again until a student discovered my account and “friended” me. I responded affirmatively. Since I now had one friend I decided my presence should include more than my name so I posted a picture, added some personal information (including that I am married–in the civil sense, not the Facebook sense), and left it at that. I almost never used the site, viewing it only when a student stumbled across my profile and friended me. I always respond affirmatively if I know the student. I’ve never been comfortable browsing student profiles. It feels like wandering into the basement when teenagers are having a no-adults party. Things are going on that we shouldn’t share with each other.
Over the past few years Facebook has gone mainstream. You no longer need an .edu address to create an account. Legal periodicals discuss how lawyers are using Facebook for networking and advertising. Facebook: It’s not just for kids anymore! I, however, know very few adults with Facebook accounts so I continue to hold it at arms-length. Every semester a few more students add me to their friends roster, I visit once or twice, and I leave it alone.
A colleague mentioned this week that she had created a Facebook account and contacted me. I did not receive email notice of the contact so I checked the site to discover a pile of messages in my inbox dating back six months: friend requests, event invitations, requests for job recommendations, and other time-sensitive communication. Apparently, during one of Facebook’s many recent makeovers, my communication preference changed and I was no longer opted-in to receive site notifications. The result was six months of unanswered communication, although my failure to respond caused no terminal consequences.
Clearly, while my academic interests include the power and utility of social networking sites, my communication style is rooted in earlier technology. If getting messages requires that I walk past the kids partying in the basement, I’ll remain out of the loop.
*Everyone over a certain age, and those younger who know films of the 60s, will recognize the speaker and the source.