A while back, I mentioned that there was a call for input for an article about social media and the voice studio. The article has just been published in the October issue of Classical Singer magazine (subscription required): Social Media and Texting in the Teaching Studio [UPDATE 10/19/2012: You can read Part 1 and Part 2 of the article for free at the Auditions Plus blog.]
Much of the article is about teachers trying to find the right professional and personal boundaries to set with their students on social media:
If I have a voice student send me a friend request, I usually accept. I do not send friend requests to students, however. If a student does not want to be Facebook friends with me, I completely respect (and appreciate) their need for privacy. Facebook, if used appropriately, can be a valuable and entertaining tool. It can, however, also be a negative experience when I see students posting pictures of all-night partying or using inappropriate language.
(Social media boundary-setting is an issue that educators in all fields are trying to come to grips with, not just music teachers. There’s more food for thought on this subject in the presentation Teaching Today’s Student: Technology for the 21st-Century Music Educator by Dr. Philip Copeland, Director of Choral Activities & Associate Professor of Music at Samford University.)
One teacher addresses this quandary by maintaining separate personal and professional social media presences:
[A teacher] sought the advice from fellow voice teachers…“I am considering unfriending all of my teen students from my personal Facebook page due to the number of inappropriate posts, language, and photos that cross my newsfeed. I don’t stalk or post on high schoolers’ pages, but there are a lot of things I really don’t want to know about my teen students and their friends. There are obviously some mature teens who use FB responsibly, but I don’t want to tacitly support highly personal or irresponsible posts. Teens would still have access to my public posts and the studio business page, I just wouldn’t be able to see their pages.”
To [the teacher’s] surprise, everyone who responded was unanimously in favor. She was not alone in the idea of separating studio and personal FB pages. She created a separate page for her studio and unfriended her young singers on her personal page.
“I update the studio page daily,” she says. “I try to balance posts with student and faculty news, marketing for upcoming events and classes, community events and auditions, and a sprinkling of inspirational music quotes and funny music cartoons…I keep the business page professional and squeaky clean.”
Other teachers feel the need to set standards for etiquette and appropriateness in the use of texting:
It also becomes intrusive when a student texts me questions about repertoire ideas, class assignments, or vocal technique. I do not have time to give free, detailed advice about appoggio via a text. An e-mail would be better, but that is really what voice lessons are for. For those kinds of situations, I will ignore the text until I see the singer in person. Then I will have a brief and friendly discussion about texting versus e-mail.
The article also has anecdotes about some students’ lack of discretion on social media, and their naiveté about the consequences:
One night, as I was counting sheep and spending time on FB, I noticed that one of my voice students had checked herself, and several other singers, into a popular Las Vegas nightclub. It was about 2:00 on a Thursday morning. […] One student involved in this incident had a private voice lesson with me later that afternoon. She had no knowledge of the post. She arrived to her lesson several minutes late, looked quite haggard, and was full of excuses. I did not mention my knowledge of her source of pain, but I was definitely unforgiving in her poor performance during her lesson. It was evident that she had slept very little and had been talking in a loud, smoke-filled club. She practically broke down in tears as I refused to accept her lack of preparedness and poor vocal shape. Had I not known about her nocturnal activities, my firm and unyielding behavior would have been harsh. But I was disappointed at her lack of respect for me and her lesson. How can you have a productive lesson after hanging out at a noisy, smoky club all night?
Other students demonstrate greater awareness about the benefits and pitfalls of social media:
I enjoy having the freedom to openly communicate with my voice teacher through Facebook and texting. […] That being said, there still needs to be some sort of professional barrier between teacher and student, and on Facebook I’m not always posting the most appropriate things. I have to hold back sometimes on pictures I share and statuses I post because I don’t want someone I look up to to have a negative view of me. I think setting up a page for a studio would keep that teacher/student relationship intact while keeping easy communication open.