Banning Facebook on Campus

About Timothy Hackman

Librarian for English & Linguistics, University of Maryland Libraries. Member of LES since 2006.

A post-by-proxy for our colleague Vince G. at Concordia.

Concordia University in Montreal, Canada has blocked access to Facebook on campus,but it is available on the wireless network. Ostensibly, this was done to limit traffic on the university network, but now that Facebook has become a professional and academic communication tool, as well as an essential tool for students, I believe this prohibition is unwarranted. I am wondering if this practice is widespread (or not). Do you know of any other universities that have blocked campus access to Facebook?

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4 Responses to “Banning Facebook on Campus”

  1. I found this really surprising when Vince told me about it, and I can’t imagine a university doing this without a significant outcry from the student body. (Of course, if it’s always been blocked then I guess they don’t know what they’re missing.) Like he says, it really is important to students’ social lives these days, so I would think that restricting access would be sore point for many.

    That being said (if I may rant a little,) I’m feeling a good bit of discontent with Facebook myself these days, and I’m less and less convinced that it’s a legitimate “professional and academic communication tool.” I’m not a FB hater–I started my account several years ago (long before all the cool kids were doing it) for the purposes of outreach to my undergrad and grad student constituents. But it soon became clear that those groups were profoundly uninterested, if not outright hostile, to establishing online “friendships” with anyone who looked like an educator.

    Moreover, though, I think I’m increasingly bothered by the narcissism of the whole endeavor. FB has very little to do with contacting “friends” (real or electronic) and everything to do with getting those people to look at the information you’ve posted about yourself. [The latest craze–“25 random things”–made this crystal clear, and again, I’m as guilty as the next person. After all, who can resist an invitation to talk about oneself?] The students I see on our reference computers looking at the site are all looking at pictures of *themselves* (usually pictures of the self-taken, camera-held-at-arm’s-length variety) and endlessly tweaking their own profiles. Is there anything good, either for the students or for society, that can come out of creating more self-absorbed, self-promoting future reality-show stars? If there is I’m having difficulty figuring it out. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m off to post a Facebook note about the results of Googling my name…

  2. Aline Soules says:

    I was surprised to hear this as well. It raises all the issues of privacy, intellectual freedom, etc. I will be surprised, however, if Concordia can continue to ban Facebook as institutions are now jumping on board–e.g., libraries, universities, etc. All of these sites are becoming potential information-sharing and marketing tools.

  3. Mark says:

    Michelle Spoomer in this article from Theological Librarianship makes the point that it is useful for “connecting with individuals and creating community”.

    From my own perspective I’m not so concerned about the narcissism inherent in FB as about using the opportunities. Ok if anyone actively shuns contact with “their” institution including the Library that is a pity. You can only hope that if you can put up useful content that more actively engaged students will find it helpful.

  4. I think FB has some usefulness, but it doesn’t do everything. I doubt its effectiveness as an outreach tool to specific students or classes. It seems more useful as an “opt-in” kind of service. If they are interested in coming to your FB site, they will. As a recruitment thing, however, students are liable to think it’s kinda creepy. So, I think FB is more of a general tool. “Here’s some stuff about the library.” I’d rather use Libguides or something like that to offer resources for a specific class.

    As a networking thing, FB is sort of hard to judge. I wouldn’t say it’s great for making professional contacts. But I have used it to contact people I’ve known in the past. Some of those contacts continue. Some of them wither. No biggie. It has also served to strengthen contacts I have with people in other social spaces. It just adds a level of information about people I’ve met. I learn things I wouldn’t know from Twitter or even LinkedIN. Some of it is interesting and useful information, some of it isn’t.

    As for the point at hand: shutting off FB to limit traffic seems especially, um, unintelligent. Lots of email is frivolous and non-academic. Why not shut that down? I question whether network traffic is really the motivation, but then, I’m a suspicious person. 🙂

    One final note: the New York Times FB page has 360,000 fans. The NY Public Library page has 4,200 fans. You’ve got to have realistic expectations.

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