Faculty: 7 ways to avoid social media blunders

By Meris Stansbury
March 17th, 2016


Faculty give advice for navigating the informal waters of social network connections with students and alumni.

If a tree falls in a forest…you can count on the entire social media world knowing about it.

According to faculty at various universities, there are two main ways that social networking sites are causing new concerns and considerations for faculty and institutions: frictionless sharing and context collapse.

In a report by Cassidy Sugimoto, assistant professor at the School of Informatics and Computing at Indiana University; Carolyn Hank, assistant professor at the School of Information Sciences at the University of Tennessee; Timothy Bowman, graduate student at Indiana University; and Jeffrey Pomerantz, information scientist at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; these terms are defined as:

Frictionless sharing: Passive sharing on social media sites, like Facebook. It is a sharing of one’s online behaviors by default. “With these new features, one is always ‘on,’ leaving a trace of what is happening anywhere on the Web and at any time—not simply when one is logged in,” said the authors. It is a “panoptic knowledge of one’s Facebook friends’ activities,” and quite different than the traditional relationship between student and faculty member.

Context collapse: When the online persona of an educator is both personal and professional. Because of this context collapse, it is also hard to limit audience, especially on social media networks.

If both of these new considerations aren’t navigated carefully, say the report’s authors, “Facebook regret”–or the not just reputational risk for the social media subscriber or their friends (whether faculty, student, or other institutional member), but also a potential risk to the reputation of an institution–can occur with often negative consequences.

This rapidly expanding social networking concern for higher-ed faculty “begs the question of where the boundary is drawn between professional conduct, communication and obligations, and personal conduct, communications and obligations…the question may be more appropriately positioned as to why there is not a boundary,” said the authors.

(Next page: 7 recommendations from faculty)

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