S.B. Linek1, A. Ostermaier-Grabow2

1ZBW Leibniz Information Centre for Economics (GERMANY)
2University Hamburg (GERMANY)
There is still an ongoing discussion about the academic use of Facebook and how students and their lecturers should interact with each other on such social private networks. In the presented empirical study we investigated not only how and why Facebook contacts between students and their lecturers (hereinafter referred to as SL-contacts) were developed, but also how students and lecturers with and without SL-contacts estimated the current situation.

We addressed our research questions by means of an online survey with 2849 participants (2550 students and 299 lecturers). Only 460 persons (333 students and 127 lecturers) reported about SL-contacts. The majority of 2389 participants (2217 students and 172 lecturers) had no SL-contacts.

The results of the participants with SL-contacts showed that reasons for sending a SL-contact request were mainly sympathy and the assumption that it was okay for the other one. Also the acceptance of a SL-contact request was mainly based on sympathy and the assumption that the acceptance of the request was the normal reaction. The denial of a SL-contact request was a very seldom exception and was mainly done in order to keep distance or because the SL-contact was seen as inappropriate. Remarkably, the development of SL-contacts was not connected with academic information on Facebook.

Asked for the status quo of having SL-contacts, the participants with SL-contacts reported that they had also a friendship outside the internet or that it did not matter if they have SL-contacts among their other Facebook contacts. The answers of participants without SL-contacts on the status quo (of not having SL-contacts) were partly mixed. On the one hand, they reported that they simply had never thought of having SL-contacts and that it was not due to lack of sympathy. On the other hand, they also felt that SL-contacts are somehow inappropriate. In relation to the latter finding it remains an open question if the feeling of inappropriateness was the reason or the consequence of having no SL-contacts.

Overall, our results suggest that SL-contacts are handled and perceived similar to normal Facebook contacts. Thereby, the existing own SL-contacts are seen rather positive and mainly based on interest and sympathy, but less on academic purposes. Accordingly, SL-contacts seemed to be more a private and less a work-related matter.