Wednesday, March 7, 2012

The Right to Privacy and the Word 'Friend'

I saw this disturbing paragraph at the Time magazine web site; considering it's close to home and has some real-life implications, I thought I'd quote it:

"According to Sullivan, student athletes at several colleges nationwide are required to friend a coach or compliance officer on Facebook. MSNBC cites this requirement from the University of North Carolina’s student-athlete handbook as an example typical of many colleges: “Each team must identify at least one coach or administrator who is responsible for having access to and regularly monitoring the content of team members’ social-networking sites and postings.” It also says, “The athletics department also reserves the right to have other staff members monitor athletes post,” leaving the door open for the university to use outside social-media-monitoring companies."

Read more:

Okay, okay........this seems to be an egregious intrusion into the private, as opposed to the public, domain of a class of university students.  This totally sucks!  Bad kitty!

I can understand the anxieties that athletic departments have regarding possible possible misconduct of athletes, and they tend to regard them as property, in a way.  But, should universities have carte blanche to manage their students lives to such a degree?  Clearly, they have a right to expect the team members to show up for practices and games, and do their best, but they need to understand the limits of their power.  When will it stop?  Will they decide to set dress codes for what the athletes wear to class?  Will they vet the athletes' choices for boyfriends or girlfriends?  [A former Texas Tech coach actually made disparaging remarks about his players' 'fat little girlfriends!']

And will it stop with athletes?  When will they start monitoring the Facebook pages of graduate assistants?  Or profs?  Would I want some Dean to be my Facebook 'friend.'  Look for aviating swine when that occurs!

Erving Goffman coined the term 'total environment' back in the 1960's to refer to any setting in which there is extraordinary control over its residents.  These would include prisons, institutions for the mentally retarded, boarding schools, convents, and military bases (at least back then, I guess).  Universities did a little mild version of that back years ago with in loco parentis, with.  And I guess students found ways to get around that.  Anyway, I hope so.  The dead hand of administration tries to confound a lot of normal human tendencies.

And this notion of having to 'friend' a coach or some other official in order to be able to play........does that make that person a true 'friend.'  Maybe Facebook should add a spearate but equal access category to their catch-all term 'friend.' 

Call that category 'Commisar.'

Actually, it's not just the athletic departments at fault, it's the widespread abuse of the term 'friend.'  When I started posting at, several people asked if I would 'friend' them; and, being amiable, I complied to the tune of 250 'friends.'  Actually, a small number people I'm met in person, like Heidi and Elvis.  But when you add the possible move that Facebook allows, namely unfriending,' I just don't have the heart.


Duckbutt said...

I agree, it's unwarranted and intrusive. Plus it's really a waste of time.

Somehow, I can't imagine a normal person tasked with this responsibility being very diligent on it for very long. From my perspective, if I had to monitor the Facebook pages of undergraduate majors, I would either turn to drink or go bananas! From what I read, UNC got burned over some athlete's remarks on his Facebook page, and so they go in an overreaction mode.

Banana Oil said...

So basically, you have to make fake friends in order to play? Do they monitor players' poop, too?

Mike said...

I can just see this leading to fake Facebook pages. One for the monitor and one for real friends.

Grenouille Fille said...

Facebook pages seem like putting a social facade up for the world to be impressed with.

eViL pOp TaRt said...

Duckbutt, Mike, Banana Oil, and Grenouille Fille, you all makes good popints about this. I can see where there will be subterfuge, with fake and real Facebook pages.

I don't do Facebook, BTW.

I'm With Stupid said...

I think they are mostly doing this to make sure the players aren't using their FB to break NCAA rules. People get carried away and ask the players for tickets or offer them things that are against the rules.

But, if I was a player, I would probably just not have FB page to avoid having a coach prying into my private life.


Bilbo said...

I've been active on FB since many of us started pages to get ready for our 40th high school reunion. I think it's a good way to stay in touch with friends and acquaintances, but it's easy to get carried away. It also somewhat cheapens the idea of what it means to be a "friend," as I wrote in my blog a while back ... ( I would never give anyone the password to my page, but I would be willing - hypothetically - to "friend" someone under the right circumstances if they had a good reason to "monitor" what I was posting. Nevertheless, others have made a good point - if one site is monitored, it's easy to just start up another one under an assumed name to avoid the oversight.

Grand Crapaud said...

This is a very upsetting development.