New York: Professors, please note! While your Facebook profile may help you connect with students, you may have to be careful about what you post on the site!
College students judge professors based on their Facebook profiles, a new study has found.
For instance, a professor with a socially oriented Facebook profile may be viewed as more popular but less skilled by potential students than other professors, according to the study.
Many professors use the site to reach out to undergraduates as well as for their own social reasons, said Winthrop University psychologist Merry Sleigh and her students Jason Laboe, also of Winthrop, and Aimee Smith of Kent State University.
To understand how a social media presence might influence a professor's teaching career, the researchers created six fake Facebook pages, all of a fictional 39-year-old male professor, 'LiveScience' reported.
Each page had a specific focus: Either the professor was portrayed as primarily politically conservative, politically liberal, religious, family-oriented, socially oriented or professional.
The social professor, for example, included a profile picture of the professor holding a beer. In the family-oriented profile, the same man was pictured next to a small child.
One hundred and ten undergraduates (77 female and 33 male) were randomly given one of the profiles to rate for the professor's skill, friendliness, popularity and appropriateness.
The students also rated their likelihood of taking the professor's class and how much they respected him. As far as the students knew, the professor in the profile was a real person.
The focus of the profile made a difference in how students saw this potential teacher. Professors with professionally oriented profiles were viewed as the most skilled, whereas social and conservative professors were seen as the least skilled.
Social professors were also seen as the least likely to be difficult, while politically conservative professors were viewed as most likely to teach a tough course.
Students disliked professors who wore their politics on their sleeves: Politically conservative and politically liberal professors were seen as the least friendly and the least respectable.
Students also had little respect for social professors and felt family-oriented professors were the most respectable.
Students reported being most interested in professional information from their professors' profiles, but found that information the least influential when forming an opinion about the person.
The study was published in the journal Cyberpsychology, Behavior and Social Networking.