“Creepy Treehouse”? Friending Your Professors or Students

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on a new online term, “creepy treehouse”:

A growing number of professors are experimenting with Facebook, Twitter, and other social-networking tools for their courses, but some students greet an invitation to join professors’ personal networks with horror, seeing faculty members as intruders in their private online spaces. Recognizing that, some professors have coined the term “creepy treehouse” to describe technological innovations by faculty members that make students’ skin crawl.

In any venue, mixing business with pleasure can be awkward, but one commenter notes:

It seems if students are finding use of online sites for class and personal use as creepy we have failed as a system in our integration of what happens in the courseroom with what can happen in the real world…

Later in the comments, a professor offers what seems to be a wise via media: don’t friend your undergraduate students, mention to your grad students that you are on Facebook, and friend them only if they make the request first.

To me, it seems that ESN members may have good reason to connect with their professors online. If you are pursuing an academic vocation, your professors are not merely your teachers, but also your future colleagues.

But what do others think?

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Micheal Hickerson

The former Associate Director for the Emerging Scholars Network, Micheal lives in Cincinnati with his wife and three children and works as a web manager for a national storage and organization company. He writes about work, vocation, and finding meaning in what you do at No Small Actors.

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  • madlahron@gmail.com'
    MH commented on January 25, 2010 Reply

    What I find creepy is when students ask their prof — to join their FB or Twitter… and get offended when their invites go unheard… I get some 20-30 invites a term.

    Frankly, I think it’s more profs who are harassed by students, their privacy invaded, be it during NOT-office-hours, on Email, and now with IM, FB etc. It’s creepy that the Entitled Gen-Mes don’t get that profs might (want to) have a life apart from them…

  • madlahron@gmail.com'
    MH commented on January 25, 2010 Reply

    As for grad students, yes, I consider them future colleagues… but frankly FB, IM or Twitter are not fora for academic discussions on specialized topics. At not least with my colleagues…

    • MikeHickerson@gmail.com'
      Mike commented on January 25, 2010 Reply

      How much of that depends on your discipline? I see lots of discussion on Twitter among digital humanities specialists, for example.

      Also, is there a benefit to having a social relationship when it comes to hiring or tenure decisions?

  • mike.austin@eku.edu'
    Mike Austin commented on January 26, 2010 Reply

    I use Facebook for old friends, family members, and the occasional former student who has now graduated. I’ve set my privacy settings so that I’m “dark” at my campus. When I first had a Facebook account a few years ago and used it as a way to connect with students, I found that I didn’t want the sort of connections that happend via this form of social media. So now I tell the occasional student who somehow finds me on FB that I don’t “friend” students.

    • mike@emergingscholars.org'
      Mike Hickerson commented on January 26, 2010 Reply

      Have you used Twitter any? I’ve seen several faculty who compartmentalize their online life, with Facebook for personal updates and Twitter (or Tumblr, or WordPress…) as their “public” persona.

  • mike.austin@eku.edu'
    Mike Austin commented on January 26, 2010 Reply

    I do use Twitter, in just that way. It opens up another avenue for students and professors to connect a little bit more out of the classroom, without some of the pitfalls of Facebook.

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