Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Facebooking colleagues

(NB: I feel silly writing friend as a verb so frequently, but I find it useful to distinguish the instantaneous act of clicking a toggle in Facebook from the dynamic act of befriending a human being.  Know, however, that I still feel silly as I write this post.)

Holy cow, I just had an unnerving thought.  In the midst of preparing for my upcoming short-list interview, the idea struck me that perhaps someone from the hiring committee might friend me on Facebook.  I use Facebook pretty sparingly, as a rule; I am not one of those people who constantly post what they ate for breakfast or what they watched last night.  (Because nobody gives a damn!)  I'm rather sensitive to the reality that anything one posts on the internet is, at least potentially, available forever and ever to a determined snoop, and I generally treat Facebook as a form of professional self-promotion that colleagues can and will peek at, if they can.

Historically, this meant that I drew a bright line between allowing my actual friends and family to see my page, and allowing colleagues to do so.  I didn't dare respond to any 'friend' requests from anyone in my department at DOU who held some sort of power over me: essentially, administrative staff and professors.  I also don't respond to requests from anyone with whom I am not personally acquainted in the real world.  I'm careful about my privacy settings, so it's difficult (although no doubt still possible) to see anything on my page if one is not, literally and officially, a friend of mine.

But if this is indeed a professional forum, as I take it to be, then that means that other people might want to friend me for their own purposes.  Surely this must happen with increasing frequency in hiring committees.  What should I do if one of the committee members sends me a request?  Do I just suck it up and confirm, lest I look suspicious, distrustful and untrustworthy?  Or do I take a stand for my privacy and say no, at least until the hiring question has been settled?

As far as I can remember, I don't have anything professionally incriminating on my profile or wall or whatever.  But really, how do I know what the committee might think of the Halloween costume I wore three years ago?  (And is it any of their damned business anyway?)  And what if the person who tries this were actually the one member of the committee whom I disliked and wanted to avoid in future?  I know that Facebook is the province primarily of the young, and therefore it would probably be a grad student, if anyone, who would do this.  But still: my parents are on Facebook.  Some of my profs from DOU are, too. 

I know this is probably small beer compared to other things I could be thinking about – like my freaking job talk! – but it makes me paranoid.  I posted a whole lot of things over the past few weeks, in solidarity with my friends in Research City, and while I stand by all of them, I don't want to get crossed off the list because some reactionary jerk on the hiring committee thinks that I'm going to be some kind of political liability to the university.  (Not that I suspect anyone of being such a jerk as yet.  I'm just being paranoid.)  What's the protocol on this for young academics on the market?


  1. I've never heard of something like this happening. Most institutions have policies (actual or implied) against doing this. Should it happen, though, I would advise against friending them until you get the offer. If you don't get the offer, you'd then have to look at their face intermittently, and that might be weird.

  2. I haven't heard of it happening either.

    My guess as someone who's been on the hiring side is that we're pretty darned careful not to give any candidate the impression that s/he's "the one" until the contract is signed, nor that any one of us has so much power that we can guarantee a hiring.

    I guess I could see a possibility if someone really DID want to be your friend in the yours or a closely allied field, job or no job. (So, if you were a Shakespeare person, another Shakespeare person might, I suppose, figuring that you'll be seeing each other around in any case?)

    (My capcha is "biked" :)

  3. For what it's worth, I would never try to friend a candidate on Fb. And I've never heard of anyone else doing so.

    Also for what it's worth, I am not Fb friends with my colleagues at my job - only with colleague/friends in my specialization that I see maybe once a year at conferences (which is useful in order to make plans, collaborate on research stuff, etc.)

    If I were a candidate and anyone from a hiring committee did try to friend me, I'd probably just not confirm the person, and then either shoot them a message or tell them in person that I only use Fb to keep up with extended family. I know a lot of people who use facebook that way, and I wouldn't be put off in the slightest if someone didn't confirm my friend request for that reason.

  4. I was just going to say exactly what Dr. Crazy said. In fact, I'm on FB under a pseudonym--not my blogging pseudonym--so that only my family know to friend me. But I recently got a friend request from a former student who recognized me in someone else's photo album. I emailed him and told him that I limit my FB contact to family, and everyone was happy.

  5. What everyone else said. It seems possible to me that one or two members of the department might try to friend you AFTER they offered you a job and you accepted, but I absolutely cannot imagine it happening before.

  6. I think that it would be shockingly unprofessional if a search committee member tried to friend you. But that's not to say that it would never happen. (Or that you shouldn't take a job offer extended by such an unprofessional committee!)

    Anyway, I think that the odds of it happening are slim, so I'd just not worry about it and hope for the best.

  7. Yes, what everyone said. I can't imagine a search committee member wanting to friend a job candidate.

  8. They won't. Remember that to do it, they'd have to go onto Facebook and search for you. Nobody has that kind of time / that interest.

    I'm friends on FB with colleagues elsewhere but nobody on my campus. I have enough of these people already what with F2F and e-mail.

  9. Thanks, everyone. And welcome, Profacero!

    The consensus is plainly that I'm worrying about nothing. This makes sense: I often come up with insane and trivial concerns that serve to distract me from the scary task I should be doing. Like that job talk I'm still committing to paper. Right now. If I weren't commenting on my own blog like a schmuck.

    And on it goes.

  10. Everyone is right, the chances of a hiring committee friending you are slim to none. However, if you do ever feel compelled to "courtesy friend" someone (even not in the context of job-hunting), you can make a list within your privacy settings of friends who can't see your photos, status updates, etc.