Facebook frenzy feeds social needs PDF Print E-mail
Written by By DAVID DUPONT Arts & Entertainment Editor   
Wednesday, 16 December 2009 11:37
Professor Montana Miller lectures at Way Library in Perrysburg about Facebook and social networking. 12/15/09 (Photo: Aaron Carpenter/Sentinel-Tribune)
PERRYSBURG - Montana Miller has some basic advice for those who use Facebook: "Always remember the blinds are open."
Miller, who teaches in the Popular Culture Department at Bowling Green State University, told a Topical Tuesday discussion at Way Public Library that Facebook has been a great benefit for fostering relationships. "It's been a boon for family life," she said.
The site allows people to reach out to family members and old friends they otherwise would be too busy to contact. She talked about connecting with old friends from middle school. "It's like the lunch table has been reunited."
The popular social networking Web site though has a flip side. A student being harassed on Facebook can't escape the bully.
A former boyfriend lingers within the Facebook community, making it almost impossible to get the distance needed to heal the wounds of love gone bad.
Bosses and colleagues can be privy to personal information, the employee may want to keep separate.
Playful photos of naked children that may be cute in a family's photo album at home, may seem more sinister when posted online.
Facebook users, Miller said, can choose certain restrictions on who has access to their site, and various parts of their sites, both those can be porous.
She doesn't understand why one would choose to give access automatically to their friends' friends.
Miller said people should be concerned about even trusting their friends. Maybe they leave their computer on, or share passwords with others, all can mean a person's private information can be breached.
With the advent of the Internet and its myriad functions, including Facebook, "the concept of privacy has really been eroding," she said.
"We're sharing more and more because there are benefits," said Miller, who said she has 675 Facebook friends.
Still even in this evolving, freewheeling virtual world some rules are needed.
Miller said no high school teachers should friend students. The power imbalance in the relationship is too great for the teacher to have access to students' personal lives. "People can be coerced, made to feel uncomfortable. Reputations can be destroyed."
While having school projects using Facebook may seem like a good way to engage students on their own turf and get them more involved in school, those have too many dangers. Forcing a student into that kind of relationship can easily open them up to violations of their privacy.
On college campuses the story is different, students are adults and professors have less power over them. Miller said she will accept as Facebook friends student who ask her, but she will never ask a student to friend them.
Relationships between parents and children are also changing. Miller said a few years ago, students would never want to friend their parents on Facebook, now it's common and accepted.
Not that it doesn't have problems. She showed an actual message in which a student inquired: "Who's skipping school tomorrow?"
Within minutes his mother responded: "Not you."
Now the question is whether to friend grandma, and how much access to give her. Should she see the comments friends may post on their virtual walls?
"Facebook," Miller said, "isn't bad or good ... it is really complicating our relationships."

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