It’s Sunday evening and I’ve been sending out the routine reminders that assignments are due tomorrow by 5:00 p.m. There is a spike in activity in my Inbox and Blackboard account. One noticeable pattern I see in my online courses is students posting assignments on Sundays. Perhaps it’s a quick release before the beginning of an intense work week or the urge to “get it off my desk” before hosting a Sunday dinner with family, attending religious services or watching the big game on television. There’s just something special about Sunday. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow said it best, “Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week.”
I have multiple windows open on my iMac and the large monitor flashes with color. I take a “mental break” between grading assignments and my eye wanders to my Facebook window. I created a Facebook profile a few years ago when a neighbor asked why I didn’t know that the delicious spinach dip recipe from our Book Club meeting had already been posted on her Facebook newsfeed. Huh? She told me a Facebook account would take only a few minutes to establish and urged me to do it immediately. I was missing out on so much. Why wasn’t I on Facebook? What had I been doing all of these years? Was she was right?
I logged onto Facebook and inputted some basic information about my interests and educational background. I uploaded a picture, sizing it to fit the format allowed on screen. But then it got more challenging: it was time to request friendships. This seemed odd to me — the idea of asking a person you already knew to become your friend on screen even if you had just seen them at the gym the day before. Weren’t they already my friend? Why would I have to reconfirm this through a virtual relationship as well? And the other concept that was bothersome was a “pending” friend request — not knowing if they would actually accept my offer until they decided to click on the “accept” icon on their Facebook screen. What if they choose to click “not now,” hiding the friendship request or worse yet, deleting the request altogether? I have heard that Facebook even alerts you when people remove your friendship or “unfriend” you. Ouch. According the Facebook website, they do operate with Community Standards to protect people from unwanted friendships or requests that may violate the community via bullying or harassment. You can even block a friendship to protect yourself.
After searching for known friends on Facebook, my page began to populate and my newsfeed was sprinkled with political messages, pictures of my friends’ children, family vacations and even inspirational messages. I could “like” their posts, write comments and even share with other friends.
Years later, I view Facebook as a virtual scrapbook, a way to connect with friends who have moved across state lines or to different continents. For example, one of my best childhood friends is currently stationed in Gabon, Africa in the foreign service and we communicate most often via Facebook. She sends me pictures of her adventures walking on the equator, exploring Albert Schweitzer’s hospital and eating fresh coconuts. I send her pictures of our daughters in dance competitions, videos of their piano recitals and check-ins at our favorite restaurants. It has strengthened some of my relationships and allowed for vast freedom and creativity in communication.
However, what happens when one of my students sends me a Facebook friendship request? I have fielded a few Facebook friendship requests from students in the past, but have elected to decline and talk with the students to let them know how I feel about social media. I do have privacy settings on my Facebook account, but I consider it a personal account, not a school or work related account. I know some College of DuPage faculty have established multiple Facebook accounts for that purpose — to form student groups and bolster communication in a different venue. But admittedly, I’m not there yet. For now I use Facebook as a personal life tool for friends and family only. Navigating social media etiquette can be tricky sometimes, but I view my Facebook account as more of a social group forum to post pictures of my dogs in Halloween costumes. Click on the like button!