Farewell to Facebook — It’s time for me to go

kayakkid.jpgI’ve decided to shut down my Facebook page sometime before the end of the year. I don’t feel comfortable there. Never did.

So, if you want to catch the photos of my summer trip to Lake Superior, do it before January 1st. And for posterity, here is my latest Facebook profile picture, taken at our home at Sandy Lake near good ole Kent, Ohio.

facebook1thumbnail.jpgMy students love Facebook. It’s a wonderful way for them to stay connected to friends and to expand their social network. And Facebook has the public relations and marketing types licking their chops with 10 million students as perfect targets for their viral campaigns.

As everyone knows by now, Facebook is the online social network that took college campuses by storm the past two years. And it may soon make Mark Zuckerburg a billionaire if Yahoo makes the long-rumored deal. My younger son, now a senior at Miami University, introduced me to Facebook. And because I have an “edu” email address and an abiding interest in Web 2.0 media, I had to jump in and test it.

Right after I published my page, I asked, “What kind of exhibitionist puts this kind of personal data out there for all to see.” And yeah, I ask the same question every time I post to this blog. But that’s another story.

Why leave Facebook now? Simply put, Facebook makes me feel like a voyeur standing outside the girls’ locker room. I guess that’s partly because 75% of my Facebook “friends” are women, most of them young enough to be my daughters. Hey, can I help it if I teach in a major that’s 90% female?

It’s gotten better in recent months, but I still see way too many messages and way too many photos that make this old professor blush. And believe me when I tell you, I’m no prude.

During my first months on Facebook, I couldn’t resist telling my students to clean up their acts. “Do you really want a future employer to see that photograph? How do you think that outfit reflects on your professionalism? When did you start smoking? Oh, only when you pound shots of Grey Goose! I see.”

Students now know that employers aren’t at all shy about checking their Facebook images. And many have really toned down their online images — several at my prompting. But others remain unfazed. I stopped offering advice to my “friends” months ago, and I don’t check out their profiles much any more. They resent it when I do. So I’ve gotta go.

clash.jpgNow that you know my rationale for signing off of Facebook, let me know what you think. Should I stay or should I go (with apologies to the Clash)? And since I almost certainly will leave Facebook no matter what you say, should I bother migrating to My Space? Or is that SSDD?

I don’t like to make hasty decisions, so I’m giving this one ’til January 1st. Meantime, I plan to spend a little less time on Facebook and a little more time helping the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania with its deer population problem. It’s that time of year.

10 Responses to Farewell to Facebook — It’s time for me to go

  1. Dino Baskovic says:

    If you haven’t already, try LinkedIn. It’s essentially Facebook for us grown-ups. You’d be amazed at how many of your peers and professional colleagues may already be on it.

  2. Brian Wooley says:

    When did you start smoking? Oh, only when you pound shots of Grey Goose! I see.

    Oh my, the irony’s getting thick in here…

  3. J. R. Boyd says:

    Hi Bill,
    I’d say stay, but keep 90% of your comments, and especially advice, to yourself. I think as educators the value of understanding the context that students bring to campus (both literally and virtually) is very high. And in public relations I would think more so.
    I would suggest that you can define yourself in this (and other) space the same way faculty do at departmental picnics and parties, for example – there are those who choose to get down and dirty and “party all night long” with the students (the hipsters), and those who choose to maintain some distance (the squares). That said, I suspect students will be more stand-offish with strange hipsters online due to the nature of the beast (the “In cyberspace no one knows you’re a dog” phenomenon).
    I’d stick to the slightly squarish quadrant.
    Respect the students’ space, but show up.
    Just my 2 cents.

  4. J.R.,
    Thanks for that feedback from someone in my shoes. I got into FB so I could look more closely at the student online network. But I kept a low profile as you suggest. Never asked a student to be my friend, never refused one who asked me. I am nothing more than an observer, who, as I said, too often feels like a voyeur, which in a few years could translate to “dirty old man.”
    I do have another observation that I shared with Shel Israel’s readers the other day. Simply put, given all the options available through Web 2.0, FaceBook seems downright lame. Here’s the link:
    http://redcouch.typepad.com/weblog/2006/11/is_myspace_over.html#comment-26027895

  5. Tracy Burt says:

    Bill,

    It’s been a while since I’ve read your blog, so I’m doing some catching up today. In case I haven’t told you, I really enjoy it (and many of my former classmates do as well.)
    I found the Dirty Old Man comments in this posting hilarious, but I don’t think you should feel that way. That’s exactly the nature of these sites, to let everyone see your “personality” -or whatever else it is you decide to post.
    I’m probably scolding myself here (I know I’ve posted photos or comments that aren’t exactly the most professional), but these students and young professionals are intelligent enough to know better and shouldn’t be irritated by any comments they receive. I mean, getting attention IS the point, right? Constructive criticism from someone who cares about their future should be appreciated. I say stay.

  6. Taylor Wessels says:

    (My mom forwarded me this entry from your blog — really enjoyable stuff) It’s good to see someone’s not afraid to jump off the Facebook bandwagon. I can’t tell you how many of my friends at Miami start and end their day on Facebook, not to mention the lecture courses around which I can look and see dozens of open laptops with that familiar blue-and-white motif in their browser windows. Despite the ubiquitous pictures featuring the red plastic cups that scream “cheap beer,” I was just invited to join a group on the site entitled “President Hodge [the president of Miami University] should be on Facebook.” Something big will have to happen to remind people that the basic rules of human interaction still apply on the internet!

  7. […] written critically about FB twice before (here and here). And in the classroom, I’ve cautioned students about the long-term consequences […]

  8. […] about the reputation damage Facebook photos and messages can inflict. I’ve written about it here and here as […]

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  10. […] I stopped offering counsel to Facebook exhibitionists and became a voyeur. I nearly quit the community in 2006, but realized you can’t study social media if you don’t go to the […]

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