Monday, December 03, 2007

The Dangers of Being My "Friend"

In non-medieval news, I'm quoted in the Chronicle of Higher Education story, "For Professors, 'Friending' Can Be Fraught" (which is behind the subscriber firewall at the moment). The story is about the dangers of being a Facebook "friend" with students. For those of you who aren't academics and desperately need to see the reference to me in the article, here's an excerpt*:

Richard Scott Nokes, a professor of English at Troy University, in Alabama, knows how that goes. A student once approached him late in the week to ask for an extension on an assignment. He said he was going to a relative's funeral. Mr. Nokes happened to sign on to Facebook a few days later, and something in his news feed — the site's voyeuristic compilation of friends' updates — caught his eye.

There was a new picture of the bereaved student, posted by a friend, on the beach in Panama City, Fla. Mr. Nokes, who had suspected as much, decided not to say anything. "I guess it's not the first time I've been lied to by a student," he says. But "it was the first time I had a photograph."

A little clarification here -- in this story, the student was at the beach, not on the beach; i.e. he was at a bar on the beach, and the photo had a caption identifying it. The confusion is probably my fault, however, not Sara Lipka's, because she called twice, and the second time I spoke to her I forgot about which incident I had told her, and started telling her a slightly different story. In fact, variations on this story have happened a couple of times -- usually it's students at Panama City Beach claiming to be sick or at a funeral. When I switched stories midway through (and at one point I think I started talking about a female student, when the original had been a male), Lipka and I had a moment of confusion. I think for a moment she thought I might be making it up. Alas, I was not.

My only regret about the article is that she doesn't call the News Feed by its more common epithet (around my campus, anyway): the stalker feed. Whether you want to be a stalker or not, Facebook is going to force that status on you.

*If you are an academic and don't read the Chronicle, what exactly is your major malfunction?

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