Every so often, someone writes in the Chronicle or Inside Higher Ed about the Perils of Facebook (cue the music of dread)... How becoming "facebook friends" eliminates the carefully crafted wall between student and professor; how students' drunken pics will haunt them later when they are trying to find jobs; how professors and administrators share a little TMI; the threats of how the information we may inadvertently share gets used by the companies that are behind Facebook and the attached applications...
Sure, there are some blog entries and articles that trumpet the utility of Facebook for recruiting and keeping up with alumni. But mainly people bitch about it. I really like Facebook, and I use it often. Yet, I want to add my 2-cents, raising another issue that I haven't read so far--the meaning and importance of the facebook status update.
I am one of those users who forgets to update my status for days at a time. I honestly forget it is there. And perhaps I don't really want people to see what I am doing or feeling all the time.
My students, on the other hand, change their status constantly! And the status update is a site for creativity, just like the rest of their page. Sometimes the students quote songs or TV shows. This can be very confusing for those of us who don't know the referent. For example, one of my students wrote that he was "all dark and twisty inside." For those in the know, it is a Grey's Anatomy quote. For the rest of us, it read like he was having a really bad day. My instant reaction, upon reading it, was to write a facebook version of an email (not on the wall) asking if he was okay. He wrote back, laughing, and let me know about the source of the quote, which he thought was cool.
My teenage nieces and nephews also are on Facebook, and they have had to explain to the gf and me that people's status updates can be a little overstated in terms of emotional intensity. It is nothing to see status updates that say things like "Carter wants to kill his parents," "Christina is totally sad and ready to call it done," and "Cooper is totally fucked." Ten minutes later, they read "Carter is hurray!!!!," "Christina wonders if orzo is really pasta," and "Cooper asks "Was I outta my head, was I outta my mind. How could I have ever been so blind?". (Yeah, even I knew that last one was a song.) Simply put, they told us that no one should really take a status update all that seriously. They are a way to spout off, to be funny, engaging, and outrageous.
So, I am trying to not react too quickly to status updates. I do follow them over time, however. For the niece and nephew, three or more pitiful status updates will probably spur a note. I wait longer for the students I advise--but I may be a little more likely to connect with a student the next time I see him or her if the status update notes that s/he "misses home and all my friends."