“Friending” Your Professors
The ins and outs of social media encounters with the people responsible for your grades.
By Samantha Gross, Concordia University
This is going to be a throwback to the end of last semester, but guess what friends, shit like this happens at the end of every semester, so pay attention and prepare yourself.
Let me set the scene.
The semester has come to a close, and you are finally, finally, free from the inescapable and nightmare-inducing pile of homework you’ve been struggling with since January. Your final exams are complete, thank fuck, and you’re heading into your professor’s office to turn in your final paper.
You wander through the halls of the office building, catching the eyes of a few poor souls begging for last minute extra credit or arguing that an 89.9 percent really is an A. It gives you a little bit of second-hand embarrassment, but whatever, you’re not the one groveling.
By the time you get to your professor’s office, you’ve come up with the perfect playlist for your drive to freedom. In fact, you’re so lost in tunes of Ke$ha (fuck what you’re roommate says, she’s fantastic) that you almost don’t catch what your professor says to you.
The final statement. The inevitable parting wisdom. The one phrase that might have completely fucked over your summer.
“Find me on Facebook!”
Or, in the case of my professor, Twitter and Instagram.
At first, it doesn’t seem like a big deal. Whatever, you got an A and the professor seemed chill so it’s cool. It’s not like you do anything too embarrassing on social media, and now that you aren’t their student it’s less weird.
But you’ve forgotten what summer is really like. During the semester, your vanilla ass was sitting in the library reading the weekend away. This beautiful sunny break away from textbooks and highlighters is a completely different story.
Now every time you go for a drink and your friend tags you in an unflattering bar photo, you have to live with the knowledge that your professor will see it. Every time your mom posts an embarrassingly meme-like minion themed love post on your timeline, you have to know that your professor will see it. Your professor will see everything now. And they will judge you.
You can try and filter what happens on your social media—remember not to tweet a complaint about homework, try to minimize the number of photographs of you holding alcoholic beverages, etc.—but the damage will still be done. Some sites are relatively easy to keep clean, because your future employers could keep tabs on it too, but sometimes your friends and family cannot be contained.
And you can only pretend you aren’t into some weird shit for so long.
So now that you’re trapped in a digital hell with the perpetual Big Brother eye of your professor (or, if you really fuck up, multiple professors) on your every post, it’s time to do some damage control.
Remember that your professor is friends with other professors, including ones that you have yet to have a class with. You could potentially be soiling your relationship with an instructor you haven’t even met yet, while simultaneously completely ruining the put-together image you so meticulously crafted with your old professor. And holy fuck, did that take a long time.
But not to worry, friends, there is a light at the end of this dark, vast and worrisome tunnel, and it isn’t just your computer screen reflecting the horror of your mistakes back at your face.
Here’s how to cope with your professor being even more involved in your life than they were when you took their class. (I will reiterate the need to pay attention, because this could save you from a lot of embarrassment.)
If You Have Something to Say, Tweet
If you professor follows you on Twitter, go through your stuff and delete anything that mentions them or their class or literally anything academic. Anything you tweet from now on needs to be vague, including tweets about other classes and faculty. Because remember, professors know each other.
You know what, just to be safe, delete it all. All your tweets. Start over. Metaphorically move to another country and change your name (move to another account and change your screen name).
But you really should make sure you haven’t tweeted anything that could hurt someone.
It’s easy to think you’re anonymous when there’s a screen in front of your face, but words, whether digital or spoken, can easily cause a lot of pain. So just be aware of what you say and know that someone with a bit of academic leverage on you is paying at least a little bit of attention.
Filter Your Photos
With Facebook and Instagram, it’s a lot like keeping your shit clean for work. Facebook is the more prominent of the two when it comes to the likelihood of fucking up, so just refrain from leaving that nasty comment on Uncle Harold’s weird political posts and you should be okay.
You can’t entirely help it if your friend posts an unflattering photo of you at a party on Facebook, but you can block it from your timeline and confidently know that one picture isn’t going to ruin your professor’s image of you.
Instagram is a little harder to fuck up. I’m going to assume that if you allow your professor to follow you in Instagram you probably aren’t posting risky stuff, so just keep on keeping on. Most likely they’ll only like one or two of your photos, and they’re be school related, so that format is pretty easy to navigate without needing too much damage control.
All in all, “friending” your professor on social media is not the end of the world. Most professors don’t actually use most of the platforms you do, and following you on any of them is mostly their way of commenting on how likable you are. They think you’re going to succeed and want to witness you doing so. They put a lot of stock in their students’ success, and really love to see when it follows through.
Though, honestly, if all else fails, delete everything and recognize that you’ve forever ruined your academic career and the way any professor on the planet will ever see you.
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