The Dean is my Facebook friend

A conversation recently arose in the Stentor office that was Facebook-based (as are many of our conversations). This one addressed the growing popularity of online profile sites and their impact on people’s cyber-social life. The question at the heart of this debate was: Is it strange for someone over the age of 30 to have a Facebook profile?

Before I get started, let me make a few distinctions. Even though Facebook and MySpace are both online social networks, the two have slightly different characterizations. Facebook was started for college students alone and, even though it’s open to anyone now, it still retains that atmosphere (in my opinion at least) and has many more privacy options than MySpace. MySpace serves more as a forum for like-minded people to meet and explore new music or media. As such, there are few privacy options on the site – anyone can see anyone’s profile.

So is it odd to call someone who has never experienced these sites during college a Facebook friend. Well, it depends on who it is.

In my little college-bubble, Facebook exists as the ultimate gossip mill and distracter rolled into one. If I want to see if Jenny has broken up with Tommy, I can check. If I want to look at pictures from the party last weekend that I wasn’t cool enough to attend, I can look. Now, this probably sounds a little creepy and I assure you, it is. But Facebook serves as a means to examine every aspect of the lives of people you know or wish you knew. So why shouldn’t a 30 year-old be my friend if I want to see what’s going on in their life?

A perfect example is my professor from when I studied in Athens. He and I got to be great friends, and I even introduced him to Facebook. Because the site is an extremely easy way to catch up with someone, even if they live around the world, it’s the perfect way to see what new archaeological dig he’s working on.

The Dean of Students is also my friend on Facebook. Do I find this strange? Not really. Granted, some employers and officials use the online profiles to find out potentially incriminating information about an applicant. And if a person is afraid that this could happen to them, then they should know better than to add members of their school’s administration as friends. As I have no pictures of me doing a keg stand or list “drugs, sex and rock and roll” under my activities, I feel comfortable having people I respect see my personal information.

If I consider a person a friend in real life, I have no problem adding them as a friend on Facebook. Part of the variety that makes life interesting is having friends different from oneself. Whether these friends are of another religion, ethnicity, or age, I believe being exposed to different walks of life helps me grow as a person. And if a friend of mine who is older than me enjoys Facebook as much as I do, then we have one more interest in common. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to see who updated their profile in the last 15 minutes.

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