This past week saw another class from Southwest CTA graduate. I have a long-standing policy that I will not be “friends” with students on Facebook until after they graduate. While they are now my former students, I am still teaching them a lesson and maybe a harsh one – Just because you graduated, it doesn’t mean I will automatically click accept on the friend request. Of the requests I have received from former students this year, I have accepted 2 of 16.
To me, the use of social media is like branding and I generally tend to follow my brand. Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn represent my professional brand. I rarely post personal information on any of them unless I am in a conversation with someone. My Facebook account represents my personal life. I rarely post education or work stuff there unless I’m bragging about my school or students.
I try to keep my personal life private to my friends and family and my brand, even though personal, needs protecting. Being a former student and graduating isn’t enough to enter this circle. It takes complete trust and that is hard to give to an 18 year old who I only know from classroom interactions. In simplest terms, the former students who I’m friends with on Facebook, are not sharing and wouldn’t share information I post on Facebook with other former or even current students. They help protect my brand.
I often joke with my students that I am not their friend because their parents don’t pay enough in taxes for me to be their friend. I am their teacher and mentor not their buddy to hang out with. The best way for me to continue to assist and mentor them is through LinkedIn. Regardless of how much I liked or liked a little less than others, I will accept every LinkedIn connection request. Every student has a talent and the easiest way for me to continue to connect them with community partners, internship opportunities, or job openings is through LinkedIn.
The final message that I want to leave my students is this – a friend is someone who can and will help and support you in a time of need. The best way for me to help and support you as a friend is to connect through LinkedIn and not Facebook.