December 9th, 2014
About six months after “Jane Smith” began a tenure-track position in the humanities at a big public university in the middle of the country, she met an important dean at a colleague’s house. The next day, it happened: The dean sent Jane a Facebook friend request.
We live in a world in which our social and professional identities entangle so easily. The rise of the Internet and email, followed by the ability to access both from our phones, has stretched the hours of expected contact throughout the day. Many of us choose to habitually broadcast our lives on social media, placing our quotidian activities into a strange public-private record. We can, of course, avoid social media. We can choose not to allow our colleagues into our private online space. Such choices come with social costs and perhaps even missed professional opportunities.
What we need, instead, are clear guidelines for how to handle such interactions in the best possible way.