Masters Thesis

Decision-making, Delights, and Dilemmas: Instructor-student "friendships" on Facebook.

This thesis examined tensions present between graduate teaching associates (GTAs) and their students. In particular, this research focused on how former GTAs in a department of Communication Studies manage their identity online, with their students (past and present) as “Facebook friends.” Research at the intersection of computermediated and instructional communication has yet to discover what dynamics are present with the advent of relationship formation through social media between college-level instructors and their students. A large body of literature has addressed how social media can be used as a teaching tool for college-level instructors, yet little research exists on the implications of accepting students as ‘friends’ outside of the physical classroom. 10 former GTAs participated in this study. Interviews were transcribed verbatim, coded and analyzed using elements of grounded theory. Guided by Relational Dialectics Theory (Baxter & Montgomery, 1996) and Communication Privacy Management Theory (Petronio, 2002), four categories were identified based on the participants’ responses: rules and boundaries for engagement issued by instructors for Facebook friend requests with students, privacy management by instructors on Facebook, impression management by instructors on Facebook, and relationship change between students and instructors after they become Facebook friends. Each of these categories included themes that integrate narrative examples from the interviews with theoretical concepts. An analysis of the categories is provided, while also addressing the implications of this research that can iii be used for GTAs and instructors. This thesis concluded with suggestions for future research.

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