January 18, 2009

Facebook, aka Fort Creepy

The term "creepy treehouse" seems to be a popular topic on various blogs focusing on social computing and education. The term is often connected with facebook interactions. According to Jared Stein of flexknowlogy, a creepy treehouse is:

n. Any institutionally-created, operated, or controlled environment in which participants are lured in either by mimicking pre-existing open or naturally formed environments, or by force, through a system of punishments or rewards. Such institutional environments are often seen as more artificial in their construction and usage, and typically compete with pre-existing systems, environments, or applications. creepy treehouses also have an aspect of closed-ness, where activity within is hidden from the outside world, and may not be easily transferred from the environment by the participants.

n. Any system or environment that repulses a target user due to it’s closeness to or representation of an oppressive or overbearing institution.

n. A situation in which an authority figure or an institutional power forces those below him/her into social or quasi-social situations.

Popular examples of this defination of a creepy treehouse are professors that make students follow them on twitter, or forced use of the blackboard facebook app. In our own words: would you take your Collection Development textbook to the bar to read while all your friends are there having a lively time? It would take a special person to say "yes" to that.

We think the concept of a creepy treehouse is best described as a social situation online that makes you uncomfortable. The action is invasive, and perceived as inappropriate by one of the parties involved. One element of this may be a social situation that crosses a contextual boundary (educators friending students and vice versa) or a generational gap. There are some people you'd just rather not hang out with online.

In conclusion, stop creepy treehousing. Use privacy settings, friend lists, and exercise your "ignore friend request" right. It's okay to feel strange about the amount of information people can find about you online. Define your personal limits (cough cough myspacers...). Boundaries are something to be thoughtful about, especially on new frontiers.

More info:
Attend our ML2SIG discussion Monday, January 19, 12-1pm, room 806 Hatcher.
Chris Lott: Social Networks vs. Tools
Classroom 2.0: avoiding the "creepy treehouse"
Get out of the creepy treehouse (check out the discussion thread)
for those still interested:
Wikipedia: Social software in education


  1. you mean you don't read your Collection Development textbook while you're at a bar? huh...


  2. Sara, this is exactly why you are in my Collection Development group!