What is it?

Facebook is perhaps the biggest and best known social network currently active online. You can set up a profile and connect to your family and friends and keep them informed with status updates, sharing pictures and links. However, Facebook also offers the possibility to set up a page, which are public, and groups, which can be used as discussion platforms in an open or closed format. The Facebook sign-in is also often used by other services as a single-sign-on feature. For example, you can sign in with your Facebook credentials at Mendeley, ResearchGate, and Academia.edu. Facebook is very much a walled-off section of the internet, but it has many feelers going out.

What can it do for me?

Leaving aside the personal uses of Facebook, Pages and Groups can allow you to easily communicate with your peers or your students, set up discussion groups, and follow people and institutions that are of interest to you. In this it can be a powerful broadcasting tool, as people can not only like your posts, they can also share them, enlarging your reach not just with their network, but with their network's network. But a page doesn't just allow you to broadcast, it allows you to interact, as people can leave comments and send you messages. Groups are even more interactive and can be public or private. There are numerous examples of Facebook groups being used by students and staff for teaching and research purposes.

Privacy issues?

Facebook is infamous for its privacy issues. From a CEO who doesn't believe in privacy, to countless privacy policy and settings updates, to an inscrutable way to change your privacy preferences it seems Facebook can't get privacy right. Facebook collects a massive amount of data not just from the information people its users within Facebook, but also from the likes and other information it collects on other websites, but nobody exactly knows what it does with this information. So it is a prudent course of action to think about your intentions and what you want to share with whom on Facebook in advance and to make sure you've set up your privacy settings to match.

Pro’s & Cons


  • Low threshold as very many people already have a Facebook profile.
  • Your posts and links are easily shared, giving them a potentially large reach
  • It allows you to interact with a broader public


  • Confusing and unclear privacy policy
  • It's unclear what Facebook does with the data they collect
  • Might create a greater blend of your private and professional life than you're comfortable with

Who in Leiden?

Turning Over A New Leaf: Manuscript Innovation in the Twelfth Century (project page)
Humanities Faculty - Universiteit Leiden (faculty page)
English Language and Culture, Leiden University (departmental page)
Hortus Botanicus Leiden (museum page
TheLeidener (blog page) 
Leyden Academy on Vitality and Ageing (research group page)