How do I use Facebook to my advantage for graduate school?
March 18, 2010 5:05 PM   Subscribe

How do I use Facebook to my advantage for graduate school?

I am still dragging my feet in joining Facebook after de-activating my account from college. However, for the next four years in graduate school I know that it will be a convenient way to network, socialize with classmates and find out tid bits of info not posted officially on the school website. There is an official Facebook page for the class that is moderated and has limited access to members which we were encouraged to join. So, you don't have to, but obviously if you want to be in the loop, you should. So my question is not whether I should join Facebook or not (I had in the past, but now I am re-activating my account) but how can I manage Facebook and not let Facebook manage me? I don't want to have to tweak my page for every category of friend. I don't know if I necessarily want to cut out all my pics from view (making me seem impersonal). I not sure if I should write a disclaimer somewhere on my Facebook as a form of etiquette to let people know I purposely have no wall; but may later in the future. I kinda want people to read and post on my wall, but I don't...Can anyone help straighten me out here??

I think my biggest concern, is that I want to play my deck of cards straight throughout graduate school. Afterwards, I may want to pursue becoming an instructor or pursuing certain professional endeavors. The field I am studying involves being able to network, so seemingly able to be "ambiguous" yet personal is still important. I've been over-thinking this crap for the past few days and a part of me wonders if really anything can be done to solve this problem that I am over thinking in my head (which why I de-activated facebook in the first place!). I don't want to put in so much effort to edit every un-attractive photo (I don't have any drunk or crass photos of myself but a ton of sweaty-out-door crappy hair photos) and I don't know if I should starting creating elaborate lists of friends and limited profiles. Such a pain. So what I'm basically looking for is for some insights/tips of people chiming in with thoughts of what can be done to organize/manage/maintain their facebook page can chime in here with the view point of how to organize for their graduate school/professional life?? Is the only option to just make lists? Or just have all photos blocked? Or just have my wall taken down?? Is writing a disclaimer snarky?? By the way my class size is 120 students and the reason this is anonymous is because I don't want anything professionally linking me. Thanks!
posted by anonymous to Education (15 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
People have all sorts of privacy settings and nobody is offended if someone doesn't have a wall or doesn't have their pics visible (in fact in my law program, most people have so you can't see any photos they're tagged in, probably for job-hunt reasons). Just make your profile really basic and you should be fine. If your profile is basic and uncontroversial, you shouldn't need to worry about hiding anything from anyone, and your privacy settings will be simple.
posted by ishotjr at 5:21 PM on March 18, 2010

One of the single best things I've done for my post-graduate success was deleting my Facebook account entirely a few months ago. Seriously. Do it and don't look back. There is nothing there that is crucial to your graduate program. If anything it will just distract you with social clutter that you don't need to concern yourself with. This will outweigh any invite or wall post you could ever receive.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:22 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

It wouldn't be that time consuming to make one list for all grad school contacts, and another for everyone else. You could be heavy-handed with the privacy settings at first, and as time goes by, if nobody is posting crappy photos of you and sharing embarrassing shit on your wall, you could relax the settings and ease into it more.

So yeah, I agree with ishotjr: just make a simple page, keep it basic, and stop worrying about it. I wouldn't put up a disclaimer, though.
posted by Beardman at 5:28 PM on March 18, 2010

Since I moved somewhere new for grad school it was helpful for me to make "friends" with people on facebook and transition to actually being friends with them in real life.

You can have a limited profile, just a plain picture and name and not much else, and that should be fine. But it sounds to me like you don't really want a Facebook or might not "use" it all that much. Don't get one if you don't want one; no one will think much of it.

The group page for my school doesn't have much going on in it. Yours is probably the same way, based only on my own experience of the two grad schools I have attended. They're both way more active on Twitter, actually.
posted by k8lin at 5:38 PM on March 18, 2010

I'm a grad student on Facebook. And I think you are mostly overthinking this. I'll try to address certain of your points:

You can't really cut all your pictures from view. You can refrain from posting any yourself, but other people will likely put up pictures with you in them. Those you can't do anything about except go through and manually untag yourself from them. But...maybe I'm just being a way-too-open oversharing millennial here, but I don't think there's anything wrong with sweaty outdoors pictures. I can't believe a future employer would fail to hire you because of that. And as for being attractive to your preferred sex - most people like outdoorsy people.

I have several friends who have no wall. None of them bother with disclaimers or anything. It's unusual, but I understand it's their personal preference, so I don't bug them about it. I think most people are pretty chill about it.

Having a wall is not a bad thing, though. By grad school, most people are mature enough to not post stupid lulzy or inappropriate things. And you can limit your wall to friends, and then only make friends with people you can trust. You can also delete anything anybody posts on your wall, and any posts you make to anybody else's wall, for backup.

By far, I find the most annoying part of Facebook to be the add-on applications and their attached notifications. But you can keep your own presence pretty minimal, and if you have a friend who gets really into Farmville or something, you can block notifications from that application alone or from that friend in particular. It's pretty easy to do - there are usually little x's next to the posts.

On Facebook, you can put up exactly as much information as you feel comfortable with. You can set your privacy settings so that only your friends can see most of your information, and you can preview your profile so you can see how it looks to people who aren't your friends. Of course, you should have proper skepticism about those privacy settings, as you should about everything on the Internet.

But the bottom line is, if you're really uncomfortable with the whole idea, don't bother with joining back in. People still do share information away from the Internet! Make good friends in real life, and they'll keep you posted on anything you really need to know. (In my experience, grad students are much less obsessed with Facebook than undergrads and younger people anyway. But maybe it depends on your particular school or program.)
posted by sigmagalator at 5:41 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

You are overthinking this.

- Set your privacy settings very high.
- Only 'friend' people that you're really friends with. Be ready to loosen that up as you get more comfortable.
- Make it possible for people to message you if they want to network.
- Untag unflattering pictures.
- Join groups that are important to you to get updates.

No one is going to care if you don't have a wall or photos or FarmVille. They'll just want to invite you to events.

Again, you're overthinking this.
posted by k8t at 5:45 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

Also, people don't write stupid shit on other people's walls unless they are 19.
posted by k8t at 5:46 PM on March 18, 2010

Yeah, the point of facebook is to have fun and socialize. Don't do stupid stuff and it won't end up on facebook. If someone posts something you don't like on your wall, delete it without saying anything. Only friend people who are your friends. Don't play the games.
posted by gjc at 6:14 PM on March 18, 2010

I've been intentional about not friending grad school folks on Facebook. I use it pretty much exclusively for keeping up with friends and family out of town and with my non-grad school friends in town (who I don't get to see as much as I would like because I'm in grad school). It would seem weird to me to read the statuses of the people I share an office and lab with, when I could just look over and see what they're up to. I also try to check it not much more than once a day.

I can sort of see it for networking within your particular program. 120 seems huge for a grad program to me and if networking is especially important in your field then Facebook could definitely help with that. And it's also great for getting announcements from school or local organizations.

I first joined Facebook as an adult. The only embarrassing pictures of me on Facebook are the baby pictures my mom put up. How I wish I was joking.
posted by hydropsyche at 7:53 PM on March 18, 2010

Think of Facebook as a public place. Like you're sitting at a table in the cafeteria, where everything you do and say is visible to all your friends, family, and co-workers, past and present. This will help you craft your appearance and word your updates.

If you were sitting at a table in the cafeteria, would you dress only in business attire and appear 100% properly groomed to "yearbook perfection" standards at all times? Probably not - it's a casual setting. A picture of you on a hike with slightly wacky wind-blown hair isn't going to be a problem.

I think it's important to have a Facebook page, if only so that you can say "Sure, you can friend me on Facebook, I'm so-and-so." Doesn't mean you have to update it regularly, or even ever.

Find one or two photos of yourself that you like, so that it doesn't look completely empty, and call it good. I have tons of people on my friends list who update their status five or six times a year if that. It's not wrong or abnormal.
posted by ErikaB at 8:25 PM on March 18, 2010

More power to ya, kim, but I have benefitted a lot from FB and recommend using it; I joined upon entering grad school. It's possible that my division is a little heavy on the drama, though. Facebook chat has been a boon for sharing intel and staying in the loop, and for cementing good relationships with certain members of my cohort. I've also been able to make favorable impressions -- in fact, one of the faculty commended me for my cleverness! So, no regrets here, so far. I find the privacy settings pretty easy to use, and I don't mind ignoring requests and blocking users and apps freely.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 10:54 PM on March 18, 2010 [1 favorite]

"It would seem weird to me to read the statuses of the people I share an office and lab with"

Whereas in my office, reading Facebook statuses is the best way to find out who has cake today and where, and staying logged in to Facebook chat all day increases invites to go out for coffee by at least a factor of 5.

One of the best ways to use Facebook is to sort your contacts into different lists depending on context, and then check those different lists at different frequencies as suits you. For example, everyone I work with is in one list, which I check at least once an hour during the workday to find out about things like the aforementioned cake. Then as it gets closer to the end of the day, if I'm free that evening I'll start checking the "Local Friends" list to see what people are up to for happy hour in case I want to join them. Friends and family from out of town get checked less frequently. And then I have some people whose status updates I read only when I'm doing some hardcore procrastination and have otherwise reached the end of the internets.
posted by Jacqueline at 12:15 AM on March 19, 2010

Oh and more school-specific, I've been able to form impressions of what particular professors or classes might be like in advance by reading the drip drip drip of updates throughout the semester of people taking that professor/class and mentioning exams, assignments, etc. as they come up. If everyone in a particular class seems suicidally stressed out by midterms, well, that might be a professor to avoid. :)
posted by Jacqueline at 12:17 AM on March 19, 2010

Facebook has moved away from the wall in general. Other than on your birthday, when everyone wishes you a happy birthday, all the action on Facebook these days is based on commenting on people's statuses and posted items.

If you're rejoining Facebook for grad school related reasons, the biggest way to keep it from overwhelming you is probably to limit it to grad school related people. Don't use your usual email address to set up the profile, don't friend your friends, don't friend your family, don't friend that guy who was a jerk to you in high school but keeps sending you friend invitations anyway, don't reactivate your old profile -- start fresh and limit yourself.

If your friends, family and high school jerks get angsty about that, *do* reactivate your old profile, friend them on that, and otherwise ignore it completely.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:35 AM on March 19, 2010

Jaqueline: I've been able to form impressions of what particular professors or classes might be like in advance by reading the drip drip drip of updates throughout the semester of people taking that professor/class and mentioning exams, assignments, etc. as they come up. If everyone in a particular class seems suicidally stressed out by midterms, well, that might be a professor to avoid. :)

That sounds so much more complicated and tortuous than going to (Which, OK, probably doesn't apply to grad school). But using Facebook for that will increase one's time spent reading endless stat updates and so on. If that was my reason for using it, I wouldn't have one at all.

Don't add people because they are being a jerk about it. If they are especially adamant and actually ADD you first, I personally will "accept add" nd then delete them in a couple of days. Because, really, if someone you "sort of know" adds and doesn't say anything to you in a few days, that's how it's going to stay. Facebook friends doesn't equal real friends. Words of wisdom.

Finally, I'm betting it's best for keeping up with parties and social crap. Don't let that extraneous stuff distract you from grad school. I have eight friends on mine, and I don't need any more. If you talk to them in real life, you don't need them on your "friends list". If you don't talk to them at all, you don't need them on your "friends list".
posted by lhude sing cuccu at 11:54 AM on March 19, 2010

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