El Estoque

From teacher to friend

Students and teachers explore the boundaries of friending each other on social media

Ria Kolli

During her freshman year, sophomore Neha Balusu decided to search up her elementary and middle school teachers on her Facebook. Without hesitating, she pressed “send friend request,” hoping that she could continue keep in touch with her favorite teachers.

“I don’t really care if they see what I post because I don’t post weird pictures or anything,” Balusu said. “[Friending them] doesn’t really affect me. They’re just friends to me now.”

Similarly, science teacher Kavita Gupta keeps in touch with her former students through Facebook. She likes to check in with them to see what kinds of opportunities they’ve pursued after graduating from MVHS.

“Some of my students wanted to keep in touch [for me] to see what they’re doing their lives, especially if they are involved in research and publish a paper, to connect them and bring that learning to the classroom,” Gupta said. “That is valuable, and that’s how I started connecting with them.”

While Gupta does friend her former students to keep in touch, she refrains from friending current students. Gupta’s policy makes sense to senior Kristy Maanavi. She believes that students are not typically very close with their current teachers, so it is not appropriate for teachers to friend their current students on social media.

“Social media is a more common way to interact with your friends and family,” Maanavi said. “Having your teacher see your feed and see what you’re up to is kind of awkward in that sense.”

Maanavi and Balusu would only be willing to friend the teachers who they trust. They prefer that teachers give them space and not involve themselves too much with their students’ social media accounts. Gupta respects these boundaries and agrees that it is not the teacher’s role to interfere with their former students’ lives.

“My engagement is very minimal,” Gupta said. “I know these rules in setting norms is important when somebody’s heavily interacting with their students, so I have very infrequent and very teacher-like interactions, so I think it has worked out for me so far.”

Balusu agrees, emphasizing that students and teachers must keep their distance and refrain from crossing certain boundaries when it comes to their online interactions. According to her, a teacher has gone too far and becomes creepy if they comment heart-eye emojis on their student’s photo. However, she considers birthday wishes and smiley faces okay. Given the potential for interactions to cross the line from friendly to awkward, Balusu believes that there must be a mutual feeling of trust between the teacher and student before they friend each other online.

“It depends on the type of bond that you have with that student,” Balusu said. “If you really feel like you can trust them with whatever you’re posting or they feel like they can trust you with whatever you’re posting, it shouldn’t matter.”

Balusu, Maanavi and Gupta all believe that teachers should only friend former students on social media. They emphasize that online friendships with current students could lead to potential conflicts on interest.

“[Teachers don’t friend current students] to prevent people from saying [he or she] is playing favorites because [he or she] is friends with them on Facebook,” Maanavi said. “[It’s] to keep that barrier between school and home.”

Gupta also emphasizes that, when interacting online, students and teachers must interact in the same way as they do in the classroom, and believes that it is possible to keep in touch while respecting boundaries.

“If somebody really wanted to friend their students, I don’t even know if there is place for that,” Gupta said. “Students have their own lives and teachers have their own lives, but I think there is a small intersection of those two lives where we can appreciate and understand each other.”