I found a one-panel comic that is relevant to the content of a course I am taking. I think my professor would enjoy it. Is it socially acceptable to send him a hyperlink to it?

  • 9
    It depends. Do you want your professor to take you seriously? And given their inbox is likely to be a daily problem, do you want to add to their problems?
    – 410 gone
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 6:18
  • 3
    I agree with EnergyNumbers. Be very careful with such things, because it can leave an impression of you that might be hard to get rid of.
    – Ian
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 7:01
  • 5
    One potentially relevant piece of information that is lacking is your relationship with the professor. For example, is this someone with whom your only contact is sitting in their lectures, or have you had more significant contact with them? I'd generally err on the side of Jessica B's suggestion to raise the comic in class, but if this was a professor that I had gotten on well with in the past then I might consider sending it to them directly.
    – Ian_Fin
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 8:56
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    I guess the most important question is - what's the comic! Please share a link in the comments!
    – Deleuze
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 12:35
  • 1
    If you're taking my course, then yes, please send it. Better yet, post it to the course Piazza site.
    – JeffE
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 13:09

7 Answers 7


If you need to ask this kind of question on Stack Exchange then the answer is no.

You're contemplating engaging with them on a personal level, which requires a some degree of a social relationship with them. You clearly don't have that relationship.

If, on the other hand, you had a good social relationship with your professor - shared tea and cakes during your supervision meetings, say - then of course this would be appropriate, but you would know that already.

  • 26
    I find the first sentence of this a little difficult. I think it's the sizeable number of questions, at least here on Academia, which are arguably somebody overthinking something relatively trivial/inconsequential. I don't disagree with your general answer, but I would disagree with the idea that feeling you need to ask on here about an action necessarily means that action will be problematic/inappropriate.
    – Ian_Fin
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 9:56
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    I was aiming to be a bit provocative with that statement - I meant: having to appeal to a pseudo-anonymous online community that is completely cut off from the social context in which the question arises, indicates that the asker lacks the kind of social relationship needed to answer the question in the affirmative. This rests on the assumption that to answer a question of this nature requires one to be enmeshed with in that social context; it's not a matter of academic etiquette in the strictest sense, but really one of 'what is my relationship with the professor'! Thanks for the comment!
    – Deleuze
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 10:29
  • Even if you have a good social relationship with your professor, I'm not convinced an email is usually the right approach if it just says 'I thought you'd find this funny'. You are still not their friend. I would think it's fine to show it to them in person, or to mention it and see if they'd like you to send them the link. But simply sending humour with no explanation is still not a great idea in a professional context.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 6:10
  • I'm not suggesting that having a social relationship would be ok, I'm suggesting having one would enable one to know whether or not its ok (and hence not having one is a strong indicator not to).
    – Deleuze
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 6:58

Given the title I thought my answer was 'definitely no', but I think you might have made it to the borderline. It probably depends on the specifics of the situation.

As EnergyNumbers has said, they are probably swamped with emails as it is. However, some professors may be interested if there is sufficient link for it to actually be relevant to teaching the material.

You haven't given enough context for me to tell whether it would fit, but I'd suggest instead taking it to class and sharing it with the class at the end while people are packing up. If it's too big for that, and you really feel you want to email, I would suggest something along the lines of 'I saw this and thought it gave a helpful illustration of this point because...'

  • If I was an overworked student in a class and someone insisted on sharing a comic, I'd be thoroughly annoyed and think the student was wasting my time by sucking up to the professor. No doubt there are many students who would enjoy it, but you'd have to balance that against those (perhaps a minority, but one with strong feelings) who would resent it.
    – iayork
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 12:41
  • I like this answer as it stresses the aspect of how relevant the content of the comic is to the course and/or what the professor said in the course.
    – quid
    Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 12:41
  • @iayork It depends on what the class is like. I don't mean get up the front and do a formal presentation. If it's a small class, you can share it by keeping one piece of paper out as you put your folder away, and nudging your neighbour to say you want to show it to them.
    – Jessica B
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 6:05
  • Yeah, could be, but my experience has been that "people who like to share comics" way, way, way overestimate how much people like to have comics shared.
    – iayork
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 10:37

Somewhat counter to some, though not all, existing answers to me the key-point is not how familiar you are with the professor, but rather how relevant the content is to the course and how you present it.

Personally, I would not mind to receive an email as the one below even from a student I barely know or do not know at all (if the content matches reality of course).

Subject: A comic related to your course on {Subject}

Dear {Name},

I am a student in your course {Subject}. I just came across the following comic in {Some source, plus reasonable link} that I feel illustrates the point on {Something} you made last week during class in a nice and playful way. I thought it might interest you.

Best regards,

{Your name}

By contrast:

Subject: Some fun

This is a comic I found funny. {Some dubious link}

Is something that tends to annoy me even if from closest friends or family, especially when sent as bulk email.

The point is in the first case it is clear that somebody made a genuine effort to share some information with me that they think might be relevant to me, while in the latter case it seems like a pure distraction. Moreover, as mentioned by others, there is the aspect of needing to decide if the thing is genuine or malicious.

  • Perhaps the reason for the divergence of answers is that there are two ways this could work. A very relevant comic could be worth sending even if you have no meaningful relationship with the person. On the other hand, a good relationship might make even a not-very-relevant comic appropriate (but I agree that email probably isn't the right approach even then).
    – Jessica B
    Commented Oct 26, 2016 at 6:21

I've done this before.

I would not recommend it however unless you had some level of relationship with your professor where they know who you are. I also would make sure the content is "clean" - not just to you, but in such a way that an overwhelming majority (99% of people) would not find it objectionable.

This is important because a lot of things people find funny are not funny or are just plain disrespectful to others.

Overwhelmingly this will depend on two things:

  • Culture at your institution/country
  • Your specific relationship with the professor

Only you can know the answers to both of these. In my case, the class was heavily discussion based, relatively small, and I was quite vocal in-class and had interacted with the professor enough that she definitely knew who I was. I also expected from her personality as a professor she would enjoy it.

  • 2
    I even managed to get away with sharing a "less than clean" science joke with a lecturer, because I knew that, after 4 years of knowing him and being active in our small classes, that it was the kind of humour that he would appreciate and not find offensive, even if was a little bit dirty. Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 12:43

As others have said, it depends on your relationship with the professor.

As an alternative, have you got somewhere that you can put it so that the professor could see it along with the rest of the class? This is a good way of bridging the gap between directly contacting the professor and not showing him at all, plus it might brighten the day of some of your fellow classmates.

  • 1
    This is the (almost) best answer imho. If he has a good relations with the professor, he might approach him before or after the course, mention the comic, and if professor is interested - show it to him. The bonus is that should professor not answer the mail, you would be left wondering whether you behaved okay. Commented Oct 25, 2016 at 13:12

Are you 1000% sure that it won't be misunderstood?

Have you let it wait for couple of days and you are still 1000% sure it won't be misunderstood?

If both answers are Yess, then go for it. Otherwise let the fun rest in your head instead. Good indication is whether your professor makes fun of his own work sometimes or whether they are always serious.

I often print comics from PhD Comics, XKCD or Buriden's genetically modified donkey if they are on-topic and I am sure my colleagues won't be offended by them and place them on a whiteboard in the corridor.


Definitely no if you just send the hyperlink. Do you want the professor to spend time deciding if it's a scam and take risk to open it? If it's comic, you should be able to get the picture and attach it if you decide to send.

On the other hand, if you are sure there's nothing wrong with the content (check enderland's answer), and you hesitate just because you don't know each other well, then sending it would be fine. When you send, write a very short intro of yourself and the content (25 words say).

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