Saturday, June 25, 2011

Facebook in the research university

First, I am not a real Facebook user. The little I know is that its uncritical and careless use can create all sorts of problems.

I think there is a significant issue here for both undergraduates and graduate students. Don't assume that what you post on Facebook is private. It is just like email. Don't write anything that you don't want to become public. Furthermore, Check and understand your Facebook privacy settings! You might be surprised what information people have access to.

You are welcome to your own private views about politics, religion, global warming, marriage, sex, the university, your advisor, ....
However, if your views are (or become) publicly available and you express your views with expletives, prejudice, in a disrespectful and uncivil manner, and an uncritical manner it may create doubt in the minds of faculty about your credibility and suitability as a (potential) scholar.

And, don't do Facebook at work!
Recently, I was receiving a tour of a world class lab and one of the grad students was busy on Facebook. He could not talk to me until he had finished what he was doing. This did not create a good impression!

On a lighter note, this clip from The Bang Theory mentions the issue.

1 comment:

  1. I agreed with you all the way to 'don't do Facebook at work', and now I'm going to have to beg to differ.
    Obviously, there is a degree of professionality required, and if someone comes to you in real life, they have priority, not your social networking. However, to flat-out state there should be no facebook (they use all-lowercase on the site, but their page title still has a capital 'F', so I've no idea what the preferred spelling is) is a bit of an over reaction in my opinion.

    Firstly, facebook can be used for work. I use it often to communicate with others in my course, and have even installed a LaTeX plug-in so we can more readily 'talk maths' at one another. It's been really helpful when discussing ideas.
    Furthermore, it is also useful in science communication and education — there is no reason that a student shouldn't take half an hour or an hour out of their day to answer people who have science questions or otherwise advertise the University / field / events to others.

    However, both of these are facebook for the purpose of work, and while uses you didn't seem to consider when making this post, probably aren't your intent. Facebook for personal use at work is, I feel, acceptable in moderation. One of the PhD students where I was doing an undergraduate research project spent twenty minutes discussing a couple of papers of why rivers meander, and how their straight distance length approaches a factor of pi shorter than their actual length as they age (we were nuclear physics, so this was in no way related).
    Should this interesting science titbit be discouraged? Personally, I think it's wonderful and should be encouraged that people look outside their fields and be enthusiastic about science in general. That being the case, how would that discussion be any less legitimate if it took place over facebook?

    Perhaps I'm an anomaly, but years of reading blogs and fora on various social, political and scientific issues has impressed upon me the importance of discussion. While it's true that this can be accomplished at home, I find my attention span for any one thing isn't longer than forty or fifty minutes; what harm does it do if I spend five minutes on facebook while drinking a cup of tea every hour? Or during a lunch break, to check up on events and make sure nothing important has happened (it's how I've found out about newsworthy things that I otherwise wouldn't have heard about until the next morning, or not at all in Australian news)?

    Yes, facebook can be a problem (as can be overuse / addiction of any social medium), but to say that it shouldn't be used at all in the workplace is too tight a restriction.