A friend of mine, Martin Husar, recently deleted all of his Facebook friends (myself included) and changed his personal page to “public”, allowing people to follow him rather than friend him. Out of curiosity I reached out to Martin and asked him why. He responded by publishing an awesome blog post that addresses the realities of Facebook’s “privacy” settings and how he didn’t want to stress over who was actually potentially seeing what, and what that implied for his digital privacy.
Within his post, Martin writes:
… Soon, everyone who is seven pixels of separation away is getting all of your posts, and the same is happening to you. Your news feed starts to become less and less relevant, and you start to become less relevant to others. Add to the mix the recently announced public #hashtags now supported by Facebook, et voilà there’s yet another new dimension to think about every time you upload, comment or post.
Besides, if that funny picture of you trying to stuff five hotdogs into your mouth at the same time is really that funny, someone may just go ahead and post it publicly anyway.
So why even bother selecting ‘audience’? Is it worth taking the time to set-up friend-lists to whom you can post and grant access to different things? Is it worth spending time to manage visibility for all the different photos, posts and other items that allow you to select ‘audience’? Why ‘friend’ someone only to put them in the ‘Restricted’ list Facebook offers, or have them do the same to you? Aren’t ‘friends’ supposed to trust each other?
The point is that all of these advanced ‘audience’ and ‘privacy’ settings are in my opinion more about an impression of security, like the dummy security alarm stickers many put on their homes. They make you feel safe, and provide a buffer at best, in an environment that is really open. These features exist to encourage you to share, to make you comfortable with sharing … which is why you joined a social network in the first place, right?…
This got me thinking of how right Martin is. I enjoy my private Facebook page as exactly that – the only social network that I exclude business colleagues and anyone that I don’t see regularly and fully enjoy sharing my personal time with. In other words, my closest friends and family. And though these are all people that I trust and admire, who’s to say that the words, thoughts, pictures and videos I choose to share with them won’t be made public to the world someday. I mean, let’s face it, we all know (and checked off the little box to say that we approve) that once something is uploaded to Facebook, it no longer belongs to us. Facebook clearly states that once we take this action, we have decided to make our private words, pictures and videos public with the world.
So false sense of privacy? I think so!
What’s my point?
All this is to say that, as aware as we are about the need for online reputation management and responsible publishing and posting, sometimes this false sense of privacy can leave us vulnerable – at our own risk. So take this as a reminder to truly think before you post, no matter what privacy settings you have set. What happens on social stays on the web… forever. And with every new post you have to wonder: how can this affect your future? - Tweet this now