Sunday, January 11, 2009

Using Facebook Positively

How to Facebook Friends With Your Advisor and Not Get In Trouble
fromTHE APATHY MYTH: A Blog for America's Student Leaders
by Blake Bradley, Illinois Wesleyan

In this day and age, everyone uses Facebook to communicate, many times more than email or even our phones. So, establishing that "friend"ship with your campus fraternity/sorority advisor is a great way to communicate with him/her as well as to get to know him/her on a personal level.

However, many students do not want to put their chapter or themselves at risk because of something that may pop up on a news feed, tagged photo, etc. so they simply miss this opportunity. While I truly believe that the best solution is to simply not put yourself or your chapter in questionable situations or to violate policies, I understand that we are all human and entitled to make our own choices.

First to address a few myths.
1. Campus-based Advisors actively search for policy violations on Facebook. While this may be true for some, the majority of professionals in the field simply don’t have the time to "stalk" our students looking for violations. Frankly, I don't know many professionals that wake up each day hoping to find a risk management violation.

2. Universities can pay to access anyone's FB profile regardless of the privacy settings. If you believe this, you haven't read your FB Privacy Policy. If someone who has a private profile has got in trouble for items posted on Facebook, it wasn't because an administrator paid to access his/her profile. Chances are it was from a student that had access and shared that information with the University. Trust me, it happens. At least twice a semester I have a student stop in reporting something they saw on FB that another group did.

So I offer this simple solution, create a friends list and add those individuals that you do not want to see your questionable items and then edit the settings to limit what they can see. Here is how to do it.
1. Go to the Friends Tab at the top of your FB homepage. Select All Friends. Now create a new friends list. Title it something like "Limited Profile" or "University Officials" or whatever you want to call it.

2. Go to the Settings tab at the top of your FB page. Under the Privacy Section, click on manage. Select the Profile section. Under Photos tagged of you and Videos Tagged of you, click the Edit Custom Settings. Under the Except these people, type in the name of the Friends List that you put those you don’t want to see your stuff. Click on Okay. You can also do this for Status Updates and Wall Posts, but these are a little more obvious to campus professionals who have probably been on FaceBook longer than you have been able to be on FB (remember it started with college student when 90% of today’s college students were still in high school and the high school version wasn’t offered). Unless you typically talk about the party your chapter is hosting that violates University or Inter/national Headquarters policies on your wall or in status updates, you should be ok to leave these accessible to your advisor. It allows him/her to get to know you better.

3. Enjoy increased communication and support from your Fraternity/Sorority Advisor that isn't readily available via email. Plus, you can be rest assured that if you or your chapter does slip up, something posted on Facebook will not result in someone holding you accountable.

As a final tip, if your chapter happens to get in trouble for something on FB, do the responsible thing and own it. Photos don't lie. Placing the blame on everyone beside your own organization or yourself doesn't help you keep from being at risk in the future. Neither does de-friending the campus Advisor. The later just make him/her more aware that your organization plans to not make any changes and continue to break policy. Take responsibility for mistakes and learn from them.

THIS IS BY NO MEANS AN ENDORSEMENT FOR VIOLATING UNIVERSITY OR INTER/NATIONAL HEADQUARTER POLICIES. IT IS SIMPLY AN ALTERNATIVE TO EASE THE MINDS OF STUDENTS THAT ARE UNEASY BEING FACEBOOK "FREINDS" WITH THEIR CAMPUS-BASED ADVISOR.