As the explosion of 30, 40, 50, 60, and even 70/80/90 somethings getting involved in the world of Facebook continues, we're all going to be confronted with knotty questions of whether or not is appropriate to become contacts/friends with different people. Perhaps it is a former girlfriend/boyfriend, college buddies, childhood friends, former teachers/professors, current/former students, current/former colleagues, people we don't know face to face, etc. Every phase from our lives now can be merged together in the Facebook experience. For some people, this can be an unanticipated positive outcome and for others it can be a bit disconcerting.
Anyway, in the spirit of openness and inspired by Lorna Costantini's wonderful live webcast last night on the topic of Parents and Facebook, I thought I'd spell out my professional policy regarding establishing contacts with past/current students and past/current parents. As a disclaimer, this policy works well for me but very well may not work for someone else. I believe that we all need to make our decisions with what will work best for our own particular circumstance.
For me the experience of connecting has been nothing but positive. I've reconnected with a great childhood buddy of mine who lives out here in the Bay Area, I've reconnected with cousins I haven't seen or talked to in years, I've been able to keep in touch with all of my good teaching buddies from Milwaukee, I've been able to get to know current students better, I've been better sensitized to the experiences of the busy lives of parents and their families, I've shared resources and learned new things from others, I've reconnected with scores of college and high school buddies, and I've furthered my online relationships with many people I don't even know but who are doing some innovative things in the area of teaching and learning around the world.
Here it goes...Matt Montagne's policy for connecting with past/present students and parents on Facebook (as of February 24th, 2009, that is...this is surely bound to change going forward):
I will accept a friend request from past/present students and parents under the following condition...everyone must use respectful language and keep their profile "clean." This, actually, is my rule for maintaining connections with anyone online and I post this clearly on my Facebook profile picture.
To date, I've had to discontinue the connection with only a handful of adults/students primarily due to repeated foul language in status updates.
That is it...that is my policy. I don't put people on limited profile because you can find out more information about me via a google search than you can by my facebook profile. And outside of doing my best to contribute and share with other edu-nerds around the world, I can't really control what shows up on the first page of a google search for Matt Montagne.
Best of luck developing your own personal Facebook policy for accepting/not accepting friend requests from people in your life, both past and present. These are interesting times and as a result, there is no one method and technique that will work for everyone.