All right. All right! I finally did it: I made a Facebook page.
It’s been on my list of things to do for quite some time, but a recent conversation about a former American Studies major was the incident that clinched it. I hear he’s doing great things—but I hear it second hand, because my colleague found out via Facebook. [You all don’t call…you don’t write!!] This is part of a larger notion as well: American Studies has a hard time with publicity. As a program, we’re just not that big or noisy, and so we can fall off the map sometimes. And unlike many majors (say, biology or psychology), the term “American Studies” doesn’t immediately call to mind a field of study, and only a handful of students have had a course in it in high school. Do we mean post-Cold War, rah-rah American nationalism? Do we mean boo-hiss, America the imperialist? Do we mean whoa, this is weirdest cultural formation–from confederacy to jazz, diners to nuclear bombs–ever? I’d like it to be the case that a Facebook page would give students a way to understand what American Studies is, and who the majors are, and what they do.
But I enter into the Facebook-y world with a bit of trepidation, to tell you the truth. Only a year ago, I had a group of students tell me that they were freaked out by the presence of faculty members on FB. That resonated with me. Everyone should feel like he/she has a space where outsiders don’t watch over h/er and judge h/er. If social networking is going to do something, let it not replicate, to the extent that we’re able to engage in its production, a digital form of Bentham’s prison. We’re doing that just fine in physical interactions as they stand. And yet, my intuition tells me that students and faculty members are figuring out new ways of negotiating this space, depending (as all pedagogical and human interactions do) on their specific quirks, habits, and ways of being.
For me, the “have a page but nothing on it” doesn’t seem right. Since joining gets you access to other’s pages, it feels a bit like voyeurism—people know you’re there, but they can’t see you. And at the same time, letting it all hang out there isn’t me either; it makes me deeply uncomfortable when I can’t judge reactions to information (and thus my deep-seated paranoia reveals itself). Hell, I don’t even really want to post a picture. I love privacy. I really really do. And you’d think that blogging would be counterproductive to that love, but it’s just not—or it doesn’t feel like it is. (Sadly, that’s about as media-articulate as I can be today.)
So, it remains to be seen how much and how long I’ll use the Facebook page. But I’d love to hear what works for others, and what makes them uncomfortable (or, as I just thought in my head and translated for consumption here “what totally skeeves people out”. Methinks I should not blog on weekends…)
All FB tips, concerns, or advice happily accepted. Comments are open for business.