Keep Your Facebooking Amongst Your Friends


Facebook is quite a phenomenon.  A recent Wired Magazine article noted that the Internet is dead and in its place are now portals  like Facebook, Youtube and Hulu.  Forbes just came out with its list of wealthiest Americans and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg has jumped ahead of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs.  Keep in mind that Apple sold over 16 million iPhones in the first half of this year alone and has by far the fattest profit margins of any of the major smart phone manufacturers.  Facebook is a web portal that sells advertising through its web presence.  And its founders are worth more than Apple’s.

So, yes, Facebook is huge.  And far-reaching.  I lived in Athens, Greece for four years in high school over twenty years ago and made many friends there.  When I returned to the States I never heard from most of those friends again – until Facebook made it so easy to look up old acquaintances, schoolmates and even long lost relatives.  It seems like everyone is on Facebook: my mother is on Facebook.

And therein lies the rub.  Most folks wouldn’t think of opening a web page with a title along the lines of or (and if those are real websites, please don’t click on them!) but they will post photos, or get tagged in photos that are harmless when viewed in context. Hey, everyone has a life, or tries to, that doesn’t involve work – but maybe mom or your boss doesn’t need to see those photos of you bonging a six-pack upside down in Cabo Del Fuego.

The other thing I worry about when I see private information posted on Facebook is how easy we’re making it for criminals to use this information posted in such a public forum for ill-begotten deeds.  Birthday, city you were born in, spouse’s name, family members (ergo, maiden names), pets, children.  Does that list sound familiar?  It should if you’ve ever filled out the security questions that are used to reset your password for anything from your Yahoo email account to sometimes even your banking information.  And many, many people post this information with no privacy turned on.

I don’t know how many times I’ve had friend requests, or clicked on friends of friends and seen the usual “this person only shares information with people they know” and then clicked on the Photos tab and all their photos were visible or clicked on the Information tab and I could see what city they live in, their spouse’s name, sometimes even their birthday.  And then I sigh.

Don’t get scared out of using Facebook.  Just start using it smarter.  While you’re on your Facebook page, click on Account and then Privacy Settings.  From there you can completely customize your settings.  Who can view your information, who can see your photos and wall posts, even who can see your friends list.  You can choose whether you want your profile to show up in Google searches or Facebook searches.  If you just want a Facebook page so you can see the photos your kids post of your grandkids and would rather not have anyone be able to search for you, you can do that.

The next thing you need to do is create friends lists.  Segregate your “friends” into appropriate groups.  If you have business contacts, past clients, etc. put them into a “work” group and then only expose your content to them that is appropriate – photos, wall posts, etc. that you wouldn’t mind them seeing.  Make a group for actual friends and relatives – so you can post photos of your children and vacations or let your cousins and close friends be reminded of you birthday and anniversary, etc., without exposing your crazy cousin Louie’s thoughts on politics, money or foul language to your professional sphere.  You can control all of that with Facebook’s privacy settings.

Once you’ve tweaked the settings and think you have it locked down, try the settings out.  Facebook let’s you “preview” what your page looks like to anyone on your friends list (Account – Privacy Settings, click Customize and then click Preview My Profile).  So you can pick one of your business acquaintances and look at your page as he or she would see it.  Does it all look appropriate?  If not, make the changes that need to be made.

Facebook is a great networking tool and clearly a great way to get information out.  Just make sure you control the flow of that information and think about what you are putting out there and who will see it.

Here are a couple links with some more good ideas on Facebook privacy:

10 Privacy Settings Every Facebook User Should Know

10 Solid Tips to Safeguard Your Facebook Privacy


Posted by: George Christodoulou

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