When Facebook gets weird

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Christine Barton
Campus News. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Facebook, since its birth six years ago, has quickly crossed worldwide boundaries with just the click of a finger. It has become one of the most frequently used and well known social networking sites in existence.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Facebook was founded by Mark Zuckerberg with assistance from a few of his fellow Harvard computer science classmates as a project that was initially introduced in the Harvard community.  It expanded quickly beyond the Harvard students to other colleges in the Boston area and from there took off to become somewhat of a worldwide phenomenon that expanded far beyond college campuses into the general community.  Currently anyone who is age 13 or older can signup to get a Facebook account.  The website is up to 400 million users across the globe.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
In January of 2009, Complete.com did a study ranking the social media sites; Facebook took the lead as the most used site worldwide.  From a user standpoint, issues seem to trend towards privacy and freedom of use.  From the worldwide community, the issues seem to stem around controversial topics, offensive content and the potential for Facebook to become too much of an overwhelming influence, distracting people from other things such as work or personal commitments.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Over the years Facebook Inc. has seen their fair share of lawsuits and complaints that stemmed from a variety of different issues.  With freedom of speech comes the threat of controversy; it is unavoidable by nature. The issues relating to Facebook networking ranged from violation of privacy to inappropriate content to promotion of controversial group forming, to name just a few. Regardless of the steps taken to appease the discontent, there is still a high level of controversy that surrounds the use of the site.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
There are blocks on Facebook in many countries including Syria, China, Vietnam and Iran. These countries in particular have been very vocal about the displeasure around some of the content available on Facebook and have banned this accordingly.  There are also many workplaces who have instituted policies on the use of social media on work time.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Rachel Reuben is the Director of Web Community & Strategic Projects at the State University of New York at New Paltz and the founder of her own consulting firm, Rachael Reuben Consulting, LLC.  In 2008 Reuben conducted a study about the Use of Social Media in Higher Education for Marketing and Communications. Her study offered some insights into how the higher education community may benefit from social media. She was able to get responses from 148 colleges and universities who offered information about their use of Facebook as a tool.  She offers the following key point as a result of her research: “Facebook has great potential for our purposes, and just over half of those surveyed already have a Facebook Page for their University. MySpace is not only loosing ground with the general population in terms of the number of active users, but it’s also not popularly used in higher education.”  Facebook appears to be the preferred choice for the educational community over the competitors such as MySpace, Twitter and LinkedIn.  This may be because of the popularity it holds in society. If people like it, they will use it, and it becomes the preferred trend for the time.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . .
At the beginning of the Facebook experience, the college community in general, had a very different opinion about Facebook than they do today. Ironically, Facebook began in the college community as a project. It then spread to the high school community before going full force into mainstream society. While the public quickly embraced Facebook, educators began to raise concerns about it.  The explosion of Facebook in 2004 offered an array of different concerns from educators. The consensus was that it distracted students and had no place in the classroom. It was seen as just a method for social networking, not considered an educational platform.  Some campuses even went so far as to ban laptops in the classroom.  As time went on, so did Facebook.  It became more familiar and less feared.  Educators became more open to learning about this new trend and how it may benefit the classroom and students if used as another tool for learning. Educational initiatives were instituted by a variety of different organizations such as National Association for Campus Activities and the Association for Education in Journalism in an effort to take some of the fear out of Facebook. The reality is that Facebook does not appear to be going away. Instead of fighting against its use or banning it, the educational community has begun to embrace it as a learning tool.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Lisa Martin graduated in December with a master’s in Literacy from the State University at Albany.  She did not use social media sites to communicate with her professors but did use it to communicate with her fellow students regularly.  Because her coursework was primarily hands on, and much of her time was spent leaning in the field, there was little need to use social media as a regular method of communication, she said.  When asked about how she viewed the concept of using Facebook as a means to communicate as a student, she stated, “It would have been much more useful than any other form of communication out there.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Martin reports that she is always sure to get the messages that are sent to her through her Facebook account.  “It is the only way that I am going to be sure and get information every day,” she stated.  Facebook is a common way that Martin uses to communicate and keep in touch with the world around her.  She wished that she had the option of using Facebook more when she was a student because it would have made regular communication with her professors much easier.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The concern remains of the appropriateness of the information that is commonly shared with those considered “friends.” This information is often of a personal nature and once a friend is requested and accepted the information on personal pages can be viewed by those in the friend network. This does offer some level of potential conflict when it comes to student teacher relationships and potential professional affiliations.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article on February 26, 2010, about East Stroudsburg University of Pennsylvania suspending a professor because of the content of her Facebook posts. The associate professor of Sociology, Gloria Y. Gladsen, posted several comments that she claims were her way of venting to family and friends about her workday.  The article offers the following face book posts authored by Gladsen:  “Had a good day today, didn’t want to kill even one student.:).  Another post reads, “Does anyone know where I can find a very discreet hit man, it’s been that kind of day.”. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Gladson did not deny that she had written the posts and claims that she was under the impression that her comments on Facebook could only be viewed by her family members and friends.  A student ended up seeing these comments and later reported it to a university administrator.  A written comment in the article by the interim provost Marilyn Wells stated, “Given the climate of security concerns in academia, the university has an obligation to take all threats seriously and act accordingly.” Gladsen was then suspended pending the outcome of the investigation.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Social media and its use in the college communication continue to evolve.  According to another article in the Chronicle of Higher Education in late 2009, the online campus at Penn State now requires student advisers to offer two hours of availability for meetings with students in a virtual meeting space called Second Life.  This is a fairly new concept that was designed to allow distance learning students to have the same level of access to advisors as those who attend college on campus. The question that has been raised as a result of Second Life is the issue of privacy between advisor and student and if clear guidelines have been established to protect privacy and inform all users of the threats and consequences of providing personal information through third party applications.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Adjusting your security settings to a maximum and keeping a bare minimum profile may not be enough to protect your privacy on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace or even Second Life.  Canada has raised a number of concerns over the use of Facebook because of its failure to comply with their national privacy laws.  Facebook has been known to hold on to subscribers’ personal information after the deactivation of their accounts, which can allow others to still have access to confidential information once the user has deactivated the account. There is never 100% guarantee that it gets permanently deleted. Accounts that lay dormant may leave the potential for information to be shared, disclosed or leaked years after the account has been deactivated.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Tom Proietti is a Professor of Communications and Media at Monroe Community College full time and at St. John Fisher College part time. He has been teaching at the college level for nearly 38 years.  Proietti uses social media such as Facebook in his media classes where he engages students in discussions about the phenomenon of social media. Proietti claims that his students are “tuned in and alert” about the topic of social media because it “attracts them, holds their attention and engages them where they are.”  He also uses the Facebook platform like a blog to share links, videos, articles, interviews and observations for educational purposes.  He describes Facebook as a “learning lab that works at so many levels.”  Proetti has found many benefits to using the social media forum to educate, insight and engage his students on their level, however the students participation in social media sites is totally voluntary.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
As for conflicts, Proietti recognizes that conflicts happen in every platform of communication.  He personally sees these conflicts as a way to teach students to develop their skills by offering observations and a candid approach to each situation should it arise.  If students cross the line or are inappropriate, “I let them know in a kind and firm way,” states Proietti.  Proietti spends time with his students speculating about future social media applications and platforms and finds engaging with them on the topic of social media is easy with the right approach. He claims to have “won the job lotto.”  All are invited to Friend request him on Facebook where he has nearly 2700 friends and counting.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
John Mooney teaches Public Relations and Media Entertainment courses as an adjunct at Berkeley College’s midtown Manhattan campus.  He encourages students to use online media because of its importance in society today. Mooney actively uses Facebook with his students as well as his PR clients.  He provides his students with a point on their final grade score if they do use social media.  Mooney pulls up Facebook during class and will occasionally use it as a part of his lectures and lesson plans.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The profile you provide on any social media site can offer a great deal of information to others.  Facebook is commonly used by employers to view the profiles of potential job applicants. Mooney stated, “HR departments regularly check MySpace and Facebook profiles because they provide insights into the potential hires’ personality and character”.  Those looking for employment should always be conscientious of the content and photos that are displayed on their personal profile page, as it can make or break an employment offer. As a part of his teachings, Mooney will often pull up Facebook and identify for the students examples of those profiles that may be inappropriate.. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

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