I tend to blend my work and personal lives together. I have one computer that I mostly use. My living room serves as my main work, relax, and inside play area. I grade papers while the kids run amok. I will talk about my kids and share the highlights of my weekend with my students.
But I have always tried to draw some lines. I don’t share my political or religious views with my students. I certainly stay away from some of my wilder youth stories (if there are any).
The Internet has a caused me to reconsider some of the lines I’ve drawn over the years. Initially this blog had no name on it – while I didn’t hide my identity, I didn’t publicize it. I wrote about politics and made semi-veiled references to events in my classroom. Once Dan McDowell publicly became A History Teacher, those posts stopped. My audience clearly became other teachers and educational technologists. The more personal posts disappeared, or at least only made occasional appearances. I’m sure some students found and occasionally read a post, but I think most would have found them boring.
As the tools for networking continue to expand, so do the possibilities for greater and more varied connections. I use my Twitter and Flickr accounts for both professional and personal uses – even my 365 in 2009 images include a mix of images taken at school and at home. About a year ago I set up a Facebook account and connected to a handful of other educational technology types. Eventually some former students found me and I accepted their friend invitations. I rarely, if ever looked at it until about three months ago. Some old high school and college friends started adding me as friends. Then my wife got on it with her network of friends and before I knew it I had: educational technology contacts, former professors, teachers from my school, former students, family members, college friends, high school friends, and parents of my kids friends. All in the same room.
Now I only have about 50 friends in Facebook, but it is a diverse and high quality group. There might be a story or two (remember I said might) from high school or college that I wouldn’t want passed on to my family or former students or current co-workers. A friend (both in Facebook and real life) related to me a incident where he asked another friend to take down some college party-type pictures because he was concerned about his professional contacts seeing the images.
I already strictly adhere to the rule that I don’t friend current students, but this is now bigger than just sharing information with students. I’ve always had parts of my life compartmentalized with only occasionaly cross-over. To truely enjoy and continue some of these friendships in Facebook, I have to blur the lines I’ve drawn for my entire life. I am just grappling with how to do that now.
No doubt I am not the only one experiencing this, what are you doing about it?