In an education psychology class several years ago, my professor asked us if we thought it was appropriate to friend our students on Facebook. Several classmates mentioned the benefits of keeping an eye on their students for mentoring purposes, but I couldn’t echo their positivity. I have seen too many teachers and professionals embarrassed, disrespected or fired for inappropriate Facebook friendships. I value my reputation, career and husband too much to expose them to the possibility of shame and ridicule from a social media connection interpreted as unethical conduct. These are three questions that I think every professional, not just teachers, should ask themselves before connecting to anyone via a personal social media profile.
How will my Facebook profile reflect my professionalism?
I live roughly 1,000 miles away from my family. I use Facebook to show them, especially my mom, the little things in my life: A new bulletin board I created, curtains in the apartment or hilarious personal fails. And I do have many coworkers as friends on Facebook as well. But I let them get to know me as a professional before we become Facebook friends. I want to prove that I am a capable teacher before they discover that I am also a die-hard Doctor Who fan who recently uploaded 300+ wedding pictures.
If you have a Facebook group dedicated to your business, website or classroom that maintains high professionalism, by all means, invite away. But if your Facebook profile is filled with pictures from your vacation to the beach, your wedding or selfies from your weekend, it’s best to keep your profile limited to close friends and family. Develop a relationship (professional or otherwise) first.
Will this friendship be seen as inappropriate?
I realize this is not highly applicable to those who work solely with adults. However, I do believe there is some truth in here for everyone. As a high school teacher, I must have some degree of professional separation from my students. The same goes with any workplace. If friending someone could directly hurt your professional reputation, don’t do it. Stick to communication during business hours.
Is this Facebook friendship worth the risk?
It really comes down to a simple question. Take a moment and think about possible repercussions that could occur because of this Facebook friendship. Not to be a doomsday prepper, but many are living out the worst case scenarios of a seemingly innocent Facebook friendship. Social media etiquette lines are blurry at best, and we need to take a moment and ask ourselves: Is it worth it?
Whatever you decide, make sure you won’t begrudge the consequences.
Sarah Munne – Content Writer