Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The Teacher on the Social Network

I won't lie. I have a Facebook. I don't lie to my students either, however they have a very hard time finding me. I've gone over it before, but I do not friend students. It's just not an issue I feel like dealing with. But how "responsible" must you appear on your social networking profiles? A Florida teacher was recently terminated because of his MySpace page. The article doesn't state whether students saw his page, though knowing how private MySpace is, I'm guessing it wouldn't be hard for them to find. No, the person who saw his page and questioned the material was the superintendent of his district.

The article doesn't state what was inappropriate about his picture or the messages left on his page. The only clue we have is "School officials conceded that the online content was not pornographic, but contained information parents would not want their children to know about their teacher." What, besides nudity, could be cause for this teacher to lose his job? We might never get that information. However, this shows one more instance in which teachers are held to a different standard.

Being a teacher on a social networking site can be difficult, especially with that handy dandy tagging feature. You weren't planning to share that you went drinking and tailgating this weekend, but your friend had a camera and he tagged you, so now it's on your profile. But is drinking wrong? It's not illegal. Drinking in moderation can even help your health! What about that Spring Break vacation to the beach? Now there's a picture of you in a bathing suit, too! I've actually heard parents that say "Well, teachers just shouldn't do those things!" Really? Don't wear a bathing suit to the beach? I suppose I could invest in a burqini, but it seems a bit warm for day spent lounging on the beach.

I can understand why the extremes would be bad. No one needs to see me sloppy drunk all over Facebook. In fact, everyone would do well to not have embarrassing, sloppy drunk photos on Facebook. And I definitely don't need to be sporting a thong bikini on Facebook. No one needs to be subjected to that! Honestly though? Drinking champagne at my wedding? Wearing a tasteful suit while I walk with my son into the ocean? These things are not bad, but some teachers are hesitant to have such photos. They're afraid that someone might see them and the teacher could face some sort of reprimand.

Teachers shouldn't be held to a different standard than others. Instead, everyone needs to have better standards on Facebook and MySpace. We don't need to see pictures of anyone's drunken escapades, scantily clad photos, flicking off the camera profile pictures (the height of class!) or anything that can make a future employer look at you and think "No. No way am I hiring this person." The problem is not that teachers need to be different or better than "normal" people. Everyone needs to assess what they share on Facebook and with whom they are sharing. There was a time when embarrassing, unprofessional pictures could stay hidden. There's nothing wrong with having pictures from your bachelorette party. Print them! Have fun laughing over them! Just don't share them with a thousand of your closest friends that include that one guy you sat next to once in English 101 and your old neighbor's daughter's cousin's friend who keeps commenting on all of your pictures. If you wouldn't walk down the street with that picture on your shirt, you shouldn't post it on Facebook. If your friend takes out a camera, take that as a cue to cut the drinking short or put your beach wrap back on.

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