There’s nothing wrong with having your professor on Facebook or other social media outlets, but there is a time and a place to do so.
Although there are many great questions in life, no question resonates more in the 21st century than asking yourself if you should add a person on Facebook or follow them on Twitter or any other social media platform. One question you may ask is, “Should I add my professor on Facebook?”
The answer really depends on the context and the situation.
As a new semester starts, students will be meeting new professors, many of whom will have a variety of personalities — or lack thereof, in some cases. The ones who tend to stand out are the “cool” professors, colloquially known as “brofessors.” These are the professors who really bond with students, joke and laugh with them, make an effort to know their names and will maybe even take the class out for a beer.
There are also other professors, who may not be “brofessors” but are still great human beings. However, students should hold off from adding professors to Facebook or any social media platform too soon.
You should not add your professor if you’re still in a class with them or plan to take more classes with them, unless they specifically welcome you to do so in class or during office hour visits. Adding them at this point is not advisable if you’re going to post obnoxious updates about your life every two hours or post photos of your bar escapades.
Furthermore, it’s not really necessary at this point — if ever — for your professor to know everything about you via your Facebook profile. As Jorie Scholnik, an associate professor at Santa Fe College, pointed out in an article for USA Today, adding your professor on Facebook puts them in an awkward position. It’s awkward because the teacher-student relationship then becomes a personal one.
The line is blurred, hierarchically speaking. The professor has an obligation to evaluate the student’s performance and should they reject a friend request, the relationship becomes increasingly uncomfortable. This is especially bad if the student had an interest in the professor’s field and may have wanted to work with them for undergraduate or graduate work.
Twitter is a bit different. “Following” somebody seems a little more informal and less personal than Facebook “friending” somebody. However, the same protocol applies. If the professor’s Twitter followers seem small and personal, consider leaving it alone until you know the professor better or are no longer taking classes from them.
However, there’s a time and a place to add a professor on Facebook or any other social media outlet. If you’ve gotten to know them personally and it doesn’t seem likely you will take another course with them, but you still want to keep in touch, it may be an appropriate time to click the “Add Friend” button at the top of their Facebook profile — just be sure to change your profile picture if it involves you guzzling from a beer bong.
Your professor is a professional, after all, and may be judged for befriending students by colleagues who are also lurking on Facebook.
It’s also important to keep in mind that you may want to ask a professor you’re close with for a letter of recommendation or a general reference one day, so watch what you post.
Before you decide to reach out, keep these limitations in mind and ensure that your timing is right.