Thursday, 12 June 2008

Students don't expect their tutor to see Facebook

During a drink last night with a friend who is a noted academic at London University, we talked a bit about social networking. I was interested in the extent to which university students were using Web 2.0 facilities in general as part of their studies. My friend did not seem to have deeply integrated these tools into her teaching methods, but she did remark that she had run a quick search of Facebook and found twelve of her students on there. The interesting thing was the reaction of these twelve on being told that she had done so - deep shock. She emphasised to me that her motives were strictly honorable - no dirt-digging was involved. In fact, she had been thinking of using Facebook as an internal forum for her student group, and that was the reason for checking who was on there. Despite this the reaction of the twelve could not have been stronger if she'd just told them they had all flunked their course.

This came as a surprise to me. I'd assumed that young Facebook users simply didn't care who saw what they were posting. Apparently not. If this group is representative of the whole - and, although it's a small sample, I see no real reason why not - it seems more as if they assume anyone over, say 40, either hasn't heard of Facebook or can't do a search.

Projecting this situation into a corporate context, I'm again having to revise an assumption. This was that young joiners, social networking users to a man (or woman), and of the 'let-it-all-hang-out' style to boot, would pressurise companies to change their culture, and that this in turn might accelerate the adoption of Enterprise 2.0. I now wonder if it isn't more likely that social networking will be a leisure-related medium only, as that's the way 20-somethings want it.

What do you think?

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