The biggest problems with Facebook are not about the personal, embarassing, or inappropriate comments we professor/administrator types write in our updates or the pictures we post online. No, they are the moments when we show ourselves to be grumpy, politically correct adults who can't always turn off the teacher mode.
I just wrote my best friend's teenage son--let's call him Eric--a note on Facebook, suggesting to him that he might tell one of his male friends that his use of the word "rape" as a metaphor was inappropriate, especially in the context of sports (e.g., "The team got raped at regionals."). Eric tried to explain to me that "nowadays, in sports, 'rape' means to be dominated." I explained that, while some people might want to use it that way, it really wasn't okay. I wrote about the many women and some men who I have known who have been raped, what a horrible crime it is, and how using the word that way made it seem less horrific and even somehow acceptable. Eric took it well--I had made a point of writing him privately and not in front of his friends, which he appreciated. But I haven't always been so thoughtful.
Indeed, a few weeks earlier, I gently chided another friend's pre-teen daughter on her FB page about her ugly comments about Spanish language TV and her Spanish-speaking maid. I also clarified for her that there was a difference between Spaniards and Spanish-speaking people. What a curmudgeon I have become.
I have had similar FB engagements with my twenty-something students about some of their discussions or offhand comments. I try not to, but sometimes it is hard to overlook and keep silent. I don't want to be the self-appointed hall monitor, but I hate to see an opportunity for discussion or learning pass by unchecked.
I started using Facebook as a recruitment tool related to my administrative role, so I friended current and prospective students. I have also agreed to friend my adult friends' children when they have asked, though I do not seek them out. These connections give me a lot of insights into the lives of young adults--for good or ill. I get to cheer them on, encourage them, and, it seems, occasionally question or correct them. I can't decide if I am now part of the global village raising these kids or just a meddling, uptight adult. Perhaps I am both.
That said, if Eric becomes one boy who doesn't use the word rape casually and discourages his young male friends from using the word that way, that isn't a bad thing. And I suppose these young people can always un-friend or block me... or I can hide or un-friend them and return to life with adult "friends." But I know I can't keep from commenting and addressing the more troubling comments I see. So, young people, friend me at your own risk!