Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Philosophers on Facebook

Late last summer, between finishing my summer courses and gearing up for the fall, I set up a Facebook page. Facebook is a social networking site that a lot of college students use. I tend to initially resist technology such as this, and then use it after my resistance is overcome by my curiosity. Facebook ended up being a good way to connect with old friends, but it also was a way to communicate with students, and I thought this would be a good thing. However, last week, I deleted my account.

One benefit I found with respect to my role as a teacher was that those students who were interested were able to get to know me a little bit better (my interests, what I'm reading and writing, and so on). I think this was good because it opened up some common ground between us, and this was part of my motivation. I was even able to engage in some philosophical discussions with students. On the negative side, Facebook is a time sink, and I found myself wasting precious time messing around with the various applications available on the site. Also, while I enjoyed the ability to connect with students in a way that was fun for them, being on Facebook had some negative consequences. Some seemed to think we were "real life" friends, rather than just "Facebook friends". Also, there was access to parts of my student's lives that I'd really rather not have access to! In the end, I'd rather communicate with students and friends face to face, when possible, rather than on Facebook.

I'd be interested to hear others experiences on Facebook or Myspace, both positive and negative.


  1. It seems to me that these kinds of sites are, for more many people, loneliness inducing. People use them to try to connect, but they wind up engaging in the kinds of interactions that don't foster some genuine, uplifting relationships. For most people, good relationships can typically be only gotten in "real life" (if you're lucky) not on the internet. Avoid the internet, I say!

  2. I think Facebook as you say works well for catching up and keeping up with old friends. In its present form though I wouldn't use it to keep in contact with students. The main reason as you noted is that there is too much detail and information that you get about the people you are "friends" with and vice versa. This can of course be moderated you can set differing levels of access for different people, but this is not a smooth or easy process. It would be fantastic (and an obvious move if you are listening Facebook developers) to allow you to create groups among your "friends" and control both the level of access and the reporting you get in that way. Having a status indicator for each group would be useful. If facebook went down that route I might experiment with it academically, right now it is just a great way of keeping in touch with friends, finding old ones, tying some web apps together and... wasting time.

  3. Our campus uses a free open source course management system called moodle - it's like a facebook for courses. I like it a lot and so far it has fostered our-of-classroom community interaction. Here is the website: http://moodle.org/

  4. I tried befriending people like Ted Sider and Ned Block, but they were having none of it. Oh well.


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