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In the second entry of three regarding my Facebook etiquette to share some practical examples of how to stay out of trouble on Facebook with your employer, potential employer or institution offering scholarships in the case of high school students, I will focus on various aspects of profile visibility and presence. While it may be argued that profile visibility is the source of the problem, since if nobody of concern can see your profile then you’d have nothing to worry about, the true source of all this Facebooking problem is the user behaviour. Facebook privacy is neither all that secure from professional hackers and screening services anyway, and you cannot prevent all your actions from being visible to potentially wrong parties at some time in the future unless you were to do next to nothing on Facebook, which kind of defeats the social networking aspect of its usage in the first place.
My profile is set to private, with everything viewable only by my Facebook “friends”, a topic which I will soon discuss. Others searching me can only see my minimal profile listing of a little profile photo and name. They cannot see my friends list like I find I can do with most people on any list of Facebook profiles I see, with the active link (not that I’ve ever clicked the link). If you have trouble understanding why I have this level of privacy, ask yourself what you think of someone who doesn’t know you well but wants to know who you call a friend on Facebook. I think those people are a little creepy but if you don’t, go for it and share your friends list even though your profile is private to your friends.
I don’t have limited profile access given to anyone because if I’m that concerned about them in that way at all, they are gone from my Facebook friends list, period.
A word of caution about “blocking” people if you think that keeps them out of your Facebook business. Blocking people means you can’t see their profile and that they generally don’t show up on anything you look at where they have a presence, like being a member in a group. However, your profile visibility setting overrides your blocking so if you have your profile visibility set to something other than your Facebook friends, those blocked might be able to see you, and they can definitely see your profile if you have it set to “everybody”, i.e. public. So if you’ve blocked me but you have your profile viewing set to “everybody”, as long as I can still find a link to your profile, in a group to which we both belong, for example, I can still click on the link and see your profile. I just can’t find you in a “search”, so be wary of these things!
This is a big issue because your Facebook friends can see your profile and monitor what you do on-line, so I will deal with subtopics of Facebook friends separately to illustrate my point in each.
My Facebook “friends” have nothing to do with my real friends, and that’s not meant to be a cold statement. Facebook “friends” serve a purpose of “contacts” for my on-line social networking activities as I have other, more real ways, to identify and know who I count as my friends.
The huge majority of my Facebook friends I have known in person. The few I have never known in person I have had some meaningful correspondence with, along with some other means of confirming to me they are decent people so I am confident in my choice to have them as a Facebookfriends.
I do have friends from my past who are resurfacing through reconnecting on Facebook, serving its main purpose of social networking, and I do welcome the opportunity. However, if it proves to be Facebook superficial, meaning without much and no correspondence, especially simple replies to the littlest of questions, they are dropped. If they can’t even “social network” with me, then they’re not fulfilling the Facebook usage. Besides, how do I know they are who they really are and maybe not someone looking? I’m hardly vain enough to think I’m so interesting someone would want to spy on me, but why would you just let potentially anyone look in to your life? That’s why I don’t have a public profile in the first place.
As for accepting new friends, I consider all requests very carefully since by now, I generally have everyone I know with some meaningful contact who is on Facebook in my Friends list. Some I know in real life in a meaningful way are coming on to Facebook, though, and those are easy to accept.
On the other hand, I don’t make friend requests unless I have met the person in person, had a favourable impression in some way and think our paths will cross again for whatever reason/s, whether it’s because we have common interests, common friends, etc.
Profile & Wall
After you’ve decided who might be able to see your profile, pay attention to what is on your profile, especially the Wall “front” page that appears as a default when someone clicks on your profile since this is the all important “first impression” you give someone. As well, what appears on this default page is easy target, especially vulnerable since nobody has to dig through your Facebook activities, like comments made on other’s photos last year, to find anything that might be incriminating. They just scan with their eyes and read to find any potentially damaging information.
Knowing the immediate visibility of the default profile page view, which is often the Wall tab, try to abstain from having inappropriate content on it, including those made by your friends. I know it isn’t fair to judge you on your friends’ actions, but how many people do you know do not do such a thing? Besides, it’s your wall. Never mind your friends’ actions on it but it reflects on you that you let persist there instead of removing some of it. Also, eliminate any notification of “inappropriate” actions that show up on your wall. Notifications were already addressed in Part 1. If you want to keep the action, like maybe a sketchy comment you made on someone’s note, you can still delete the notification pointing to it from your Wall tab. The idea with taking stuff off your Wall is to at least make someone looking for the rap on you work to get it, you know?
Most important on your profile is what you put there, of course. Starting with personal information, I would leave out crucial personal contact information where people can find you, like home addresses and phone numbers. I don’t object to professional contact information because they serve a different purpose. I would also leave out the year of your birth if you choose to list your birth date. There are still security checks done by places like banks, for instances like when you forget certain passwords or applying for credit cards, where they ask you your birthday. They ask for other things, too, but let’s not make it any easier for anyone trying to steal your identity. A lot of this is “common sense” stuff, but as one of my personally coined expression goes, “common sense is anything but common”.
Less obvious for content is other content you put on your profile that can give the wrong first impression, like swearing or even civilized bitterness or negative emotions of any type. I knew someone who up till recently had “f*ck this sh*t!” as a profile quote beneath her profile photo, with 2,291 photos tagged of herself. You’d never have known she had gotten an outstanding student award just a few years ago, in part for community service, and I’d be willing to bet she wouldn’t be getting another scholarship in another year if universities ever saw her Facebook profile. And don’t even think about kid camp counsellor jobs she failed to get last summer with her public Facebook profile!
Keeping anything negative related to work off your profile, especially your Wall, is definitely good advice. I’ve heard small company stories, but most recently as of this entry blogging time, 13 stewardesses from Virgin Airlines were fired for what could have been interpreted as sarcastic criticisms of their work on their Facebook. I don’t know if Virgin Airlines were “watching” over them, but they probably had work Facebook “friends” who might have ratted them out. Regardless, do you want to take that chance?
As much as leaving negative work content off your Wall, leave negative family and relationship stuff off your Wall. Gossip is bad enough as it is, never mind universal gossip. Your Facebook profile is not a tabloid!
The negative possibilities of the negative things you can do on your profile is too long to cover, but perhaps try this strategy to minimize the “damage”. Think of your Facebook profile as a venue to show your best side rather than your casual side. Turn a potential negative into a positive just by taking a different approach.
Some people probably wisely turn this off and never fill it out to avoid putting stupid things by accident. I like using it frequently for all kinds of purposes, from updating friends on things in my life to sharing some humour, other knowledge and such, with Notifications on so it is broadcasted. It serves as a frequent reminder to check what I am doing to be appropriate as I think about it every time I update it. Fortunately, it is also temporary so that if I do regret something, I could replace the status and the previous Notification would be replaced, meaning anyone who had not seen it would not see it, and then take it off my Wall so there is no “record” of it other than people’s claims, unless they run to Facebook to dig it up, which is highly unlikely.
Regardless of how you use your status updates, though, I would simply suggest putting positive things there due to its high profile, from Notifications to among the first thing someone reads on your profile, and personal connection to you because it directly pertains to you if you use it correctly like most people do to update your status. People’s general being has an emotional ripple effect to others whether others care a lot about that person or not. It’s human nature for most people. Seeing negative news about someone you know just isn’t a good thing, and hearing good news, neutral news, funny news, etc. is a good thing.
Your profile visibility and what you choose to show in the most visible parts of your profile is highly important in the impressions you project on Facebook to viewers and potential parties wanting to take interest in it, to your liking or not. However, what you do that is a bit more “behind the scenes” is potentially even more damaging because it’s where you “loosen up” with things like the various applications available, your notes and photos, and easily forget about your actions over time. In Part 3, I will cover some of my etiquette towards those aspects of Facebooking.