Monday, February 11, 2008

One More Reason Not to Join Facebook

Lately I have encountered many articles on why Facebook is bad. One detailed the fact that Facebook claims the right to share your info with the CIA. Another discusses how hard it is to break free. I pay attention to all this stuff, and frankly wish I had read it sooner.

Not that I jumped on the Facebook bandwagon early. And it might seem silly for a blogger to worry about Facebook--the information there is banal and minimal compared to what I’ve revealed elsewhere. But the fact of the matter is, I have greater control over what goes up here and how long it stays up.... I don’t know. Something about Facebook's commandeering of my personal information creeps me out. Plus I get annoyed when people who have my email address communicate with me through Facebook, necessitating all this extra clicking and so forth to read and reply to said message, instead of just emailing me.

But a few months ago I did sign up for Facebook. I still have a Friendster profile, though I do nothing with it.... I briefly was on Myspace but it was too young and frenetic for me. Facebook seemed OK, and I actually spent a lot of time adding stuff to my profile--mostly titles of books I’d read and so forth.

Something else that really annoys me about Facebook is its insistent use of the plural pronoun “their” to refer to a single person, as in “John Doe has added The Fountainhead to their bookshelf.” Surely the site has access to software that can plug in the appropriate pronoun, so that John Doe can put things on HIS bookshelf and Jane Roe can write something on HER wall.

I have avoided the whole networks aspect of Facebook, though people have told me that’s what they like best about it. But there are people in various networks that I’d just as soon not share my profile with, and this story is a case in point.

A few weeks ago I got an email informing me that someone had added me as his--make that “their”--Facebook friend. The name was familiar, but it took me a moment to place it precisely: It belonged to a highly contentious, very demanding student who’d been in my class two years ago. When the semester began, he did solid B work but thought he deserved A’s, and he refused to accept my explanations for why his work did not meet my criteria for A work. As the semester progressed, his work deteriorated; he failed to turn in two papers, and was outraged when I informed him that he would receive a 0 rather than a mere F for those papers–he wanted a grade of 55% for work he hadn’t even done. He complained to administrators about me, blah blah blah, which gave me the opportunity to show others what sort of work this person had done in my class–and the grades I awarded were upheld.

I admit I was glad when this person disappeared from my classroom and my life. But I didn’t much think about him after that--I didn’t waste time wishing his life would suck or that we’d get over our differences and become buddies. In fact, unless I was confronted by his existence by running to him on campus or some such thing, I didn’t think about him at all.

And then, he goes and adds me as a friend on Facebook. I can only speculate as to his motives; I’m guessing that he wants as many “friends” as he can have and is indiscriminate about how they are. I, however, am quite discriminating about my friends and would rather have a few really dear, genuine friends than a multitude of people I call friends but never actually interact with. So needless to say, I refused his request to be his “friend” and that has been the end of that.

In general I like my students and feel knowing them has enriched my life, some significantly, some not so much. But there are darn few I want to be “friends” with; I just want to be “friendly” with them--you know, polite and pleasant when I run into them, but without the pretense that we’ll actually stay involved in each other’s lives or invite each other over for coffee or something. Admittedly a few students have morphed into friends, but they’re rare. Most of them, I’m content to pass out of their lives and let them pass out of mine. And I don’t want to give them updates, via Facebook or any other networking site, as to what I’m doing. If they want that sort of information, let them do the work of tracking down my blog(s) and reading entries from time to time.


Blogger Chris said...

lol. It's sad when somebody's that desperate for Facebook friends. Means they have little other means to measure their success, I guess. I admit I look at the stats on my blog, so I'm not immune to internet-egoism. But it's got to have limits, and people need to pay enough attention to their real lives to achieve some modicum of success in a non-virtual arena.

11:27 AM  
Anonymous Dana said...

I had a similar thing happen to me. A student who repeatedly refused help on his poorly written papers received a predictably low score in my class. He prompted me for an explanation, which I gladly gave him. But, apparently, he wasn't satisfied and had both of his parents call me at separate times, telling me what a genius their sweetie was and what an awful teacher I must've been. After they realized the grade wasn't going to change on account of some nasty phone calls, I thought I was free and clear. Only a week later he found my Facebook page (which I only use as a placeholder so I can log in and find my friend's contact information, and only then in dire circumstances), and proceeded to attempt to befriend me. I had my own issues with Facebook prior to then, so his request was the final straw. I since deleted my entire account. I'm curious though, this student of mine also left me flowers a few times (something I thought was a bit odd, no doubt a bribe for his poor grades. Still, a bit... unsettling). Maybe this student liked you and just didn't like failing?

11:01 AM  

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