Certainly Facebook has altered the meaning of the word “friendship”. Once your friends were the few selected in time, rather than the many, very often little less than complete strangers, that appear on a Facebook page. If perceived success depends on the number of happy faces that you can boast as friends, well I am out, because to me it seems all so cold, impersonal and superficial. My students have tried to explain to me all the potentialities of this tool, but I am not easily convinced. Some of them, I admit, had really good points. One in particular made me ponder, as he professed that thanks to Facebook I could contact again the friends I have lost track of in time, school mates for example. Hmmmm, I mused, maybe I faltered for a while, but then I promptly recovered and said that if I had lost touch with them, there should have been good reasons after all; you know, for me friends are still the few selected ones and those I don’t see any longer, maybe just didn’t pass the test :). Furthermore I don’t like being tied to the past.
However, I have a Facebook account: with a fake name, of course. Few months ago I wanted to go and see some pics on a on-line newspaper, but I wasn’t allowed, unless I had a Facebook account. Ok, why not, I said? I created one with my mother’s name and somebody else’s surname to preserve my anonymity. I have to admit, apart from having access to pictures, it was fun after all. I started to work a little on it in my spare time. I made an avatar of myself, loaded some pictures, shared posts I liked, but it was only when some of my closest friends and colleagues made the great mistake to friend me, that I really understood the real potentiality of the tool: intelligence. Reading the comments and scrolling the lists of friends I could know who knew who, the degree of intimacy, things in common etc……For example, before talking behind somebody’s back, you can make sure that the person you are talking with is not his/her intimate or if you like somebody and you have the occasion to talk to him/her, you may check the list the things, books, movies he/she likes and start a conversation. From this point of view Facebook is genius.
I couldn’t refrain from checking some of my students’ pages as well, and one day I jokingly told them to pay attention to what they wrote as “big sister teach” was actually reading them. They tried to find the account, but I knew I was perfectly safe behind my anonymity. I was just teasing. But one day, there is always one day, I just couldn’t really resist from commenting something written by one of my colleagues that BANG, found out, and after a few secs I received my first friend request. From a student.
I couldn’t do it. I wasn’t even tempted, because I don’t think that students and teachers should be friend, even on Facebook. We can have a friendly attitude but we cannot be friends. In this age of confusion, roles have to be clear. On Facebook the line of what is appropriate in a teacher-student relationship is often blurred and therefore dangerous. I guess it is very difficult to be yourself over Facebook and keep the respect of students at the same time. Of course social networks are extremely helpful for both students and teachers, I can’t deny this, but on a personal level, it isn’t acceptable for them to socially interact.