I have a profile on Facebook. It makes me feel somewhat juvenile, actually, despite the fact that most of my students and many of my colleagues have profiles. I blame Fred: I created a profile as a means for better understanding what the hell he was writing about in his Facebook research. (Come to think of it, I started blogging in part because of Fred. I’m not sure how to interpret this: either students keep me technologically on my toes, or Fred is running my life.)
Anyway, I want to kvetch about Facebook’s friendship descriptors. You can optionally specify how you know someone whom you are befriending: How do you know X? You can skip this of course, and I usually do, for reasons that will become clear momentarily. But skipping this feels vaguely unsatisfying to me, and offends my inner classificationist. My kvetch is that there are no categories of Facebook-friendship that apply to me and most of the people I have as Facebook-friends. Paul and I Worked together, which, while accurate, is pretty narrow. Most of my Facebook-friends are SILS students or SILS grads, and there are just no friendship categories that apply. Took a course together doesn’t really work; nor does Went to school together. Furthermore, not all of my SILS student-friends are even my former students; I really don’t know how to describe that relationship.
Surely there are better categories of friendship — or probably better to say, categories of interpersonal relationships — than Facebook has. Whatever happened to FOAF? XFN? I suppose the biggest issue here is that Facebook’s friendship categories are all flat: they assume that both individuals are hierarchical equals. Which, not to be an egotist, is not the case when you’re describing a professor-student relationship. On the other hand, maybe this is an indication that I don’t belong on Facebook.