I spent some time the other day with a colleague – we were taking the train to NYC together, and had time for a good “gossip” about work. I mentioned that one of the students had been telling me about the various people at MPOW that had profiles on an internet dating service.
Now, leaving aside the question of whether or not this student should have known that these profiles existed (any site that only asks that you say you’re Over 18 is just asking for younger people to enter), it’s a bit striking that several of my colleagues would be so… indiscreet. I know this is a radical thought in this day and age of “everyone let it all hang out online” but really, if you work in an environment with students that are – to say the least – electronically connected, perhaps it’s not the best idea to put up a profile talking about your sexual likes and dislikes along with an identifiable photo in a forum that’s easily accessed. Interoffice dating is touchy enough (is there a power imbalance? what if you break up?) without adding the internet and all that to the equation.
My train buddy agreed. She’s younger than I (29 vs. 45) and yet she felt that all this on-line dating stuff was somehow cheesy and wrong. Some of my friends are out there, online, looking for that Special Someone (and one friend has even found a companion this way), but I tend to agree. It’s just a little too out there, a little too public.
A while ago,
Walt Crawford Totally Wired wrote about invading teen’s MySpace or texting (or Facebook) lives. In conversations with this student, MySpace and Facebook are often mentioned. After one exchange, I mildly commented that perhaps I should look at these sites – the answer was an emphatic No. Don’t. Not because there was necessarily anything there to be ashamed of, but because it was somehow an adult intruding where they shouldn’t (danah boyd spoke about this at the OCLC Symposium in Seattle).
When I suggested that this was akin to their going to the dating site and seeing who was looking, the student was shocked.
My feeling is that if you’re going to be open enough to put it all out there – on MySpace, a personals site, in a blog, where ever – then you have to accept that people that you might not want to have look in (and possibly comment or interact with you) may just do it. One friend had to take down posts for possible legal reasons. I know employers do it all the time.
Let’s be careful out there.