To friend or not to friend?

A new rite of passage has hit secondary schools across the nation, including the sleepy hamlet of Byfield, Massachusetts.  Let the friend requesting begin!

This past May, mere hours after the closing strains of “Pomp and Circumstance” were played, and even before the last of the graduates and their parents had gulped down one final glass of cucumber-infused water and grabbed a pistachio cannoli for the road (mmm … yum), Governor’s faculty began receiving Facebook friend requests in their email inboxes.

Like most secondary schools, Governor’s prohibits faculty and students from becoming Facebook friends.  Of course there are ways around this, but most people follow the rules.  Perhaps that’s why Commencement Sunday, and the days that follow, have become such a free-for-all, with friend requests flying about like hockey pucks in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Finals (love those Bs).

But what should be a simple click of the mouse, why, yes, I will accept your friend request, honestly isn’t that easy.  Do I really want to see every graduation party photo or read every snarky comment? Will I be able to follow the conversation without Urban Dictionary open on my desktop? And, technically, can I be accused of “creeping” if I use Facebook to track down a new graduate and encourage him to fulfill his Annual Fund pledge?

On the flip side, do I want students seeing the contents of my tame (okay, lame) Facebook wall? Will they pity me because I have so few friends, or mock me because one of my pals engaged us all in a lengthy Facebook discussion about finding the recipe for a good potato salad?  Sure, I’ve waded into the Facebook waters as administrator of our institutional FB page (call me Will), but what about my own page?

After much thought, or perhaps just a little thought, I made a decision. Private secondary schools, like Governor’s, really are different.  Faculty form surprisingly close relationships with students, and it’s easy to forget that they are teenagers because they’re smart, funny and comfortable with adults.  If you want to stay in touch, Facebook is a logical next step.  Sure, you may see some things that you wish you didn’t (yes, I’m talking to you, recent grads X and Y), but if students want to let you into their private worlds then why not?

So I’ll be getting my Facebook page in order, beefing up my numbers by contacting as many former friends and colleagues as I can find, and uploading at least one profile pic (I’m currently using the default, blue faceless cartoon) in anticipation of my leap into this new Facebook universe. And hopefully I’ll befriend a recent grad or two before they head off to college and forget all about me.

Sue Hofmann is director of communications at the Academy

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