Monday, March 19, 2007

Thinking a bit more about self-disclosure

This is kind of a follow-up to my note on the article about self-disclosure online. I wanted to think about some of the student suggestions related to Facebook mentioned in the article.

First, the students suggested that teachers should display professionalism in Facebook. I think one has to strike a combination between professional and what I will label as being seen as a normal person. Any school teacher may have a tale or two of encountering kids at the grocery store amazed that the teacher actually shops too. For some reason, some students think teachers are kept locked up in the school after hours. I am sure there are one or two people out there who think something similar about librarians. I have striven to make my FB profile into a blend of professional with a bit playful, or at least, add a bit of good humor to it. While I mostly use the notes feature as a supplement to my resource blog, I have filled out the profile with information about TV shows I like, movies and so on. However, I still strive to keep it professional. So, as I tell my students when I advertise the site, "sorry, but you won't see any pictures of a drunken librarian on my profile." It gets a smile out of them.

Next, they mention the appropriateness of the content. For instance, they suggest not putting anything about politics. On the Facebook, that is pretty easy for me, as I usually tend to leave politics out. I consider politics one of those things not discussed in polite company. It is not that I lack political ideas or opinions; it is just I don't believe in inflicting them on others, and I don't want others inflicting them on me. The fact that a lot of political discussion, if one can call it that, seems so incendiary, simply turns me off, so I would rather avoid it. In the cases I get an urge to express that, I let the unruly cousin do it. That's the easy part. On the other hand, since I import my posts from the resource blog over to the FB notes, and I choose links to items from various sources, I wonder at times if some choices may be interpreted one way or another. For instance, if I see a study from a particular think tank that seems relevant to some students' work, I may link to it, write a short note about it, and let them find it. Think tanks are known to usually have a political agenda, so I try to go around the spectrum as I can. I don't do it systematically, i.e. "I picked a conservative resource, so the next one has to be liberal or libertarian or (insert affiliation here)." But I do try to give more than one side when I can. Maybe I do it because I try to model what I was taught when I was learning about research: that one should look at various points of view, that one should raise questions, and do so in an informed way. Anyways, it's what I try to do.

As for being cautious on what people put on my wall, I have not had any wall writings yet. But on my blogs, like this one, I have comments. Usually, as long as something is not spam, offensive (as in deliberately rude), flaming, or hateful, I usually leave comments. I have never felt the need to moderate, and I hope I don't have to anytime soon. I suppose it is a risk, but one has to take risks in learning.

On the students showing concern about what a teacher may see on their profile. Here is my philosophy, pure and simple. I am not actively looking for student profiles. If a student does an add request, I would take a look to see who is adding, but otherwise, what someone has on their profile, it's their affair. I am in no position to grade anyone, and if I were, using it to spy would not be fair. What happens out of the classroom is exactly that. If I find something nice or interesting in a profile, I may leave a comment, but otherwise, I just pass on through. I guess what I am saying is that I am pretty easy going.

On other thoughts, I have seen some literature on self-disclosure for teachers and perceptions of teachers by students. But I am wondering how much of this has been done, or considered, for academic librarians. I get the impression there is quite a bit on public librarians and MySpace, but for academic librarians, not as much. Given that academic librarians come in different stripes (tenure/professional, teaching for-credit courses/BI instruction, etc.), it may be interesting to look at some ways in which academic librarians put themselves online for students. Brian Matthews, the Ubiquitous Librarian, has been exploring some of this, but there are many more academic librarians out there in various settings. I am just curious.

An update note: Some items which may be of interest and help me towards an answer, from the "Five Weeks to a Social Library Program: Week 4 Highlights," as provided by Meredith Farkas. I was interested on Jahn's note about MySpace boundaries. The Five Weeks course page can be found here. I have been meaning to look over the materials, but this semester has just been packed with work for me. Oh well, we'll get to it eventually.

1 comment:

The ZenFo Pro said... is a bit interesting. I know, at least from my blog/offline experiences, I've observed several things. First, undergraduates seem a) to think librarians don't have outside lives - nor should we, b) to not grasp the concept that while they may be using a library facility for 1-96 hours a week, librarians actually get paid to be there and help, or c) disconnected from anything beyond task-oriented behavior. I just right it off as part of the shine rubbing off the Millenials Rising hype.

Lol, that almost sounded professional :)