Venn Librarian

Reflections about the intersection of schools, libraries and technology.

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Jumping to Conclusions

Posted by lpearle on 17 November 2012

Maybe  I’m alone in this, but I use Facebook for personal connections, not professional ones.  I’ve been asked (nicely, but with that “and we really really think you should do this” undertone) to ‘Like’ various professional pages and groups, and that’s not going to happen.  It’s not that I don’t support the group or am ashamed of my affiliation with them, but they’re professional and my preference is to keep my usage there personal.  I know each and every one of my friends there, most of whom are former classmates or family.

Then I read this about Facebook and the new couples pages.  One word: ugh.  It’s why I wouldn’t ever be officially in a relationship on Facebook.  Again, it would have nothing to do with being ashamed of the other person, just a belief that 1. not everyone needs to see my personal relationship as a Relationship, and 2. we have different friends and interests and sometimes things are separate for a reason.

Recently my college alma mater was in the news.  Sigh.  It did mean that I and a friend, who graduated a year behind me, talked about the school for a change.  I’d also had dinner with his parents a week before, and again, the school came up.  In his father’s case, he’s reached an age where the school has felt comfortable asking him to “remember them in his future plans” (in other, less tactful words, “leave us money when you die”).   Neither my friend nor I are on Hamilton’s radar, but I’m sure that if either of us did something that meant fame (and, more importantly, wealth) they’d find us.

The thing is, Hamilton did know where I was a few years ago, and I’m guessing that they’re still sending things to my Hackley address.  I mention this (and the two stories are related – just wait!) because recently they were updating their alumni directory and wanted me to confirm my information.  How did they do this?  They sent me a postcard.  Now, Hackley is a boarding school with residential faculty.  Those faculty use the school’s address as their address, and Hamilton had only that address for me (although I live elsewhere).   My postcard came with my name and the name of a colleague’s wife on it, as though we were in a relationship.  Technically, I suppose, we are: I was her daughter’s librarian, her husband’s colleague, and I knew her other two children.  But because she didn’t take her husband’s last name (and may not have told them that she was married, with children) and we shared an address, Hamilton jumped to the conclusion that we were somewhat more to each other.

That’s the problem with databases, and the point to this post.  Luckily Facebook doesn’t have as detailed information in their database as Hamilton does, and they’re relying on people self-identifying as being in a relationship.  What happens when they do start datamining?  My trip to Seattle coincides with a friend’s… we’re in a number of photos together… we live close together, possibly at the same address… BINGO!  We’re in a relationship.  We might be living in the same building, we might be roommates, we might be cousins – but to the database, we’re In A Relationship.

I’m not suggesting that people not be ‘transparent’ in their social lives.  I’m suggesting that places like colleges and social networking sites be very careful before jumping to conclusions about what members/alumni are doing in their lives.

2 Responses to “Jumping to Conclusions”

  1. diane said

    This made me smile. I am friends w/ my brother-in-law which gets me updates on the kids, but not w/ my sister because we enjoy that boundary. Facebook is for her friends, not her family.

  2. Alice said

    I, too, use FB primarily for personal rather than professional connections. And now that I’ve officially retired it’s been interesting to see the reaction when I post a private message explaining why I am “unfriending” someone who is solely a professional acquaintance.
    OTOH, I love the way FB keeps me up to date with far-flung family and old friends.

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