Normally, I like to think that I am reasonably stable mentally (don’t we all). However, ever since I joined Facebook, I’ve had some doubts. I’ve had a horrible relationship with Facebook right from the very beginning. I didn’t want to join at first because the site wanted my email password, and it wanted me to post a picture of myself, and it seemed to want to broadcast that information all over the place. Eventually though, I got hooked. Then lots of privacy confusion happened, and I decided to quit. But my friends did not engage in a mass exodus, so I was lured back in. Back and forth, back and forth.
Two weeks ago, I gave notice to my friends and family that I was going to be deleting my personal Facebook account, which I had always kept “locked down.” I started a public/professional Facebook account not long ago, and I was going to just use that going into the future.
As you might imagine, a few folks asked me why. Well, here is my answer.
Private is not really private
Every time Facebook makes changes, you find a slew of posts and announcements about how to lock down your information. When the “open graph” launched a few months ago, it became apparent that even if you lock down everything in your account by customizing all of the settings, your information could still be spread just by your connection to friends who get involved in applications. In the latest news, which Tommy Walker posted about here on Sunday, Facebook released the news that apparently some applications were selling information to advertisers.
In my personal account, I was not saying or doing anything to be ashamed of. It just was kind of a safe haven where I could talk to family and people I’ve been friends with for over 20 years in some cases. It seemed like a nice little village where we all could get together. It gave me a false sense of security.
Keeping it on the straight and narrow
When I joined Twitter, I knew that everything I said was out there in the open. Whether I am just tweeting to myself or whether I am tweeting in response to someone else, I know that anyone who wants to see what I am saying can and will. This gives me a constant sense of caution and responsibility that I did not have when I felt like I had some small measure of online privacy.
Now, with Facebook, I am out there in the open just like I am on Twitter. I have asked my friends and family to pop on over there so that I can remain in contact with them, but I will not stray far from what I would say to a stranger at a trade show, for the most part, because I no longer have the illusion, or false sense, that what I am saying on Facebook is protected.
My word of caution
Lately, the fact that online communication is out there for everyone to see has been in the spotlight, most often in negative ways. Take, for example, the gentleman (?) from Arkansas who proclaimed that homosexual kids killing themselves was a better option than wearing purple for a day. That man has now lost his job, and he will forever be known as “that guy who.” That kind of thing can happen to anyone, no matter how locked down you think you are. On Twitter, you can be retweeted. Links you post to Facebook can be shared. Status updates can be spread far and wide. There is not really such a thing as “personal” or “private” in this brave new world of Social Media.
This is not to scare people away. This is not to dissuade you from enjoying your Facebook and Twitter accounts. It’s just to say that you are not in the privacy of your own home or the home of a friend when you post out here. Anything you say can and will be used against you, either in a court of law or in the court of the general public. Be watchful. Be careful. Be warned.