The last thing I like to do is throw pointless references to things you should and should not do on Facebook, but when I was digging around for something fresh for a blog post I found this site. The most interesting thing about the site is that it gives you specific examples of what happens to your information when you don’t hide it, and how you can hide it. To sum up their points:
1. Use your friend lists. Using friend lists allows you to group your friends into categories. So you don’t want Mom to see those pictures from last night? You have a group for her and her friends and your other family members, and you can set up those sorts of guidelines. I have a list called “People I don’t know.” It’s sad, but they’re mostly people who want to be friends with me on Facebook because I wrote in the high school newspaper/was a three sport athlete/spoke at graduation/or they’re creeping (because honestly, they have no reason to be friends with me). Rather than outrageously offend my freshman English teacher’s daughter, I put them in the “People I don’t know” category, and then I have a straight line approach to the every three months friend purge.
My amendment: Use your friend lists, but also: Do not be afraid to de-friend, or not even friend in the first place.
2. Remove yourself from Facebook search results. This one is self-explanatory: if you remove yourself from searches, you can limit who can find you. I have my search set so that people in my network can find me, and people who have a mutual friend can find me. Otherwise, I’m not in search results when a random person is looking for me.
3. Remove yourself from Google. The very first thing I did when I found out that Google searches could pull up Facebook profiles was fix that little problem by removing the public search feature from my account. If you do not specify that you don’t want to be in Google searches, you will be in them. Facebook generates a good amount of its traffic through Google searches, so the feature works in their favor. You just have to decide if it works in YOUR favor.
4. Avoid the infamous photo tag mistake. This goes without saying- you can control who sees your photos, and you can even control who can tag you in photos. Then, you can also apply your friends lists from earlier to make this setting even more personalized.
My amendment: I don’t want embarrassing photos of myself on Facebook, so I never post any or tag any of my friends. It’s like the Golden Rule of Facebook photo tagging. Do unto others…
5. Protect your albums. Like photo tagging, you can control who can see your photo albums. If you defriend your ex boyfriend because you don’t want him to see how hot you got after you broke up with him, or the fact that you’ve been hanging out with his old roommate he always suspected of pining after you, there’s a chance he can still see your photo albums. So check that, because even though revenge and vindication are fun, they aren’t things you want permanently posted online, especially when you thought you took care of the problem.
6. Prevent stories from showing up in your Friend’s newsfeeds. The first thing I always tell people when they are about to break up publicly on Facebook (because we all know it’s not official until it’s online) is to fix their settings so that no one’s newsfeeds show the development. Unless of course you want for everyone to see you finally broke up with the jerk, take that down a notch so the breakup doesn’t become another way for people to post things they’ll regret later.
My addition: Sometimes, we don’t make settings changes for just ourselves: If you have real friends on Facebook, you might be protecting them too. And not just from spammers, but from themselves.
7. Protect against published application stories. I don’t need to hound you on this one: we’ve been over applications a lot already. Protect yourself from potential embarrassment as well as your friends from checking out what you never meant to check out by blocking applications from posting on your newsfeed.
8. Make your contact information private. Don’t post your address, don’t let others see your address if you for some reason do, don’t make your phone number public, and don’t leave your school email or work email open to spammers on Facebook.
My addition: It’s sort of like leaving a message on your answering machine that you’ll be out of town for three weeks on vacation. If you have your address or location on Facebook, everyone knows you’re not at home, or everyone knows you are. Unless you literally have ZERO friends you think are capable of malicious intent, don’t leave yourself unprotected from potential threats.
9. Avoid embarrassing wall posts. Every fall comes the infamous name changes: when you’re a senior looking for a good job after graduation, you don’t want recruiters checking out all your personal life on your Facebook wall. So work on your settings for your wall, because even just Mom posting about the socks you left at home last weekend kills your cool factor.
10. Keep your friendships private. This is again a good point about how what you do on Facebook is on a “social network.” All your friends are subject to the settings you have: third party applications, spammers, and anything else that could be considered a nuisance (viral videos, anyone?) can find their way to your friends easily if you don’t keep your friendships private. Sometimes, you want the whole world to know you have 1,000+ friends because you’re just that cool, but sometimes you send 1,000+ sets of information to a third party who makes money off of their private lives.