I use Facebook. The teen specialists and librarians here at CLP use Facebook. It is probably a little unrealistic to tell anyone to not use Facebook, because it has many fine and fun uses. But there are some things to consider when you’re using Facebook. They have to do with P R I V A C Y.
Julie from Carrick has already written about the reasons that Facebook can be fun to use, and the ambivalence two of her teen customers had towards being part of it. You may or may not have the same ambivalence. You may not think at all about where your status updates go once you’ve pressed the Share button. But you should!
Check out Matt McKeon’s pie graph showing how the information on Facebook has gotten less and less private over the last five years: click here.
Unless you customize your privacy settings on Facebook, anyone can see them. Why does this matter? Is anyone looking? Don’t they just disappear into the internet ether?
1. It matters because it can affect your life. Facebooking while out sick has gotten people fired from jobs. A death threat on Facebook got a student expelled from school. Someone complained about their boss on Facebook and he saw it (warning, contains foul language.)
2. Yes, people other than your friends are or can be reading your status updates. In fact, there’s a whole website devoted to making people’s status updates searchable: youropenbook.org Even what seems like a harmless search for “Pittsburgh” turned up T.M.I. on someone’s brother’s arrest and someone’s personal update on their celibacy.
3. No, your status updates do not disappear into the internet ether. They are saved. Even if your account is deactivated, the information is saved. A company named Skull Security even compiled a list of user data (names, email addresses, etc.) and made it easily available for anyone who wanted to use it.
But I’m not here to try to be a scare-mongerer. Just to tell you to take the time to go to Facebook’s Privacy Settings page and customize your profile a little bit. (They made it a little easier to navigate after criticism of their changes.) Make a friends list so you’re only posting your updates to a limited number of people (this is why my updates are not available on Youropenbook.org). Think before you post.
The old advice about counting to ten before you speak in anger? That still applies on Facebook. And if you really feel a need to be dramatic, do like Erin Schrode and Hannah Grosman, two teens who are writing a novel that unfolds on Twitter and (fake) Facebook accounts.