This weekend an article came out in the Chronicle of Higher Education about academics and academic units with multiple online “identities.” I was interviewed along with several others, but for some reason I was the only one of whom they took silly pictures.
It is a very good article on a topic that really is a challenge for everyone, not just institutions. Everyone needs to ask themselves, what does my facebook/twitter/blog say about myself. If you are happy with the answer then you don’t have anything to worry about.
By Jeffrey R. Young
Christian Brady, an associate professor of classics and dean of the Schreyer Honors College at Pennsylvania State University, has created two Twitter accounts, one for personal comments and research (@targuman), and the other for his role as dean (@shcdean).
@targuman: Modern catechism? “Wireless as a common good.” @shcdean: If you are an SHC student or alumnus in the DC area this summer can you let me know? I would like to get a dinner together in mid June. @targuman:David Letterman is the best and most underrated interviewer on TV. Interviewing the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. @shcdean: I want to assure you all that the new, gorgeous softball stadium Beard Field is named after a wonderful PSU supporter and not my chin hairs. @targuman:Currently listening to the gutters finally being repaired (fell off in January!). Every clunk and thud makes me think $$. @shcdean: Students: assuming funding, why wouldn’t you want to study abroad for a full year? Admits are telling me you are afraid to disconnect.
‘It’s Not Schizophrenic’
Christian Brady, an associate professor of classics and ancient Mediterranean studies and Jewish studies at Pennsylvania State University, has split his social-media identity, as Ms. Feal does. “It’s not schizophrenic and it’s not to hide anything,” he said. Both of his Twitter feeds are public, and he expects that someone who searches for his name on Google will quickly find both his personal feed, @targuman, and the one he uses for his role as dean of the university’s Schreyer Honors College, @shcdean.
Deciding which account to post to is a matter of considering his audience, he says. Those looking to hear from the honors-college dean may have no interest in his research into Targums (ancient Aramaic translations of the Hebrew Bible), or in his collection of comic books. “I wouldn’t call them multiple identities, but views or perspectives on yourself,” is how he puts it.
Though Facebook was born only a few years ago, Mr. Brady says scholars have long made adjustments in their public personae: “If you’re writing an op-ed piece for the local newspaper, you’re going to use a different tone than if you’re writing for a journal in your discipline.”
Don’t Be Creepy
Some professors use only one Facebook page but wrestle with how open to make that information. One of the most-discussed questions about social networking on campuses is whether or not professors should “friend” their students on Facebook. Mr. Brady’s policy on the issue is one I’ve heard from many professors: He will accept a friend request from any student, but he never makes the first move. “I think it’s a little creepy when the old guy asks his students, Will you be my friend?,” he told me.