Social networking can be exhausting. From the new responsibility (must I "poke back"!?), the new awkward social situations (Facebook, please don't "suggest" I be friends with exes, even if we do have 67 friends in common), and the constant glut of information, what's a girl to do?
Fret not. We've got all the geeky navigating tips you need to make Facebook work for you. In other words, no more drunken pictures sent to co-workers! No more status-update addicts with questionable tastes (or boundaries). It's time to take the power back. Just tell us your issue, we'll point you to a solution. Have a question that's not answered here? Leave it in the comments -- if another reader doesn't answer, we will.
Hide Constant Oversharers
The best bit of netiquette advice I ever received was from a friend who once told me: "Imagine saying your status update out loud to every single person on your friends list." Whoa. My friends list includes past professors, fourth-grade classmates and 12-year-old cousins, as I'm sure yours does, and imagining myself telling my former philosophy prof about how my cramps make me want to rip out my ovaries has definitely saved me from potential shame.
If you have an oversharer on your friends list, and the icky joy you initially felt watching her make ridiculous decisions ("I think Curt is the one!" followed by "I'm so through dating psychos!") has worn thin, did you know you can hide their updates? Just hover over their status in your news feed and click "hide." TMI, begone! Use Lists to Limit What People See
If you don't want to deny anyone's friendship, but you also don't really want your ex–Sunday School teacher to see some of your photos.
Go to the Friends tab on your profile and start creating lists. I prefer a "rating" system: G rated, PG-13 and R. You can set restrictions of what each list can and can't see. You can also limit who gets your status updates by moving your cursor over the little tiny lock in the corner, where you write your updates.
When you feel like you have enough friends, thank you very much, and don't want anyone else to add you, but you don't want to deep-six Facebook entirely.
: The best you can do here is go to Settings >> Privacy >> Contact Information and make sure "Add Me As a Friend" is set to "only friends," You'll still show up in searches (though you can block that, too, in Settings >> Privacy >> Search), but no one will be able to do anything about it once they find you. While you're at it, you could set everything to only friends to ensure that strangers aren't browsing your photos or finding your email address.
Keep Your Comments to Yourself
When someone comments on your wall, not only is it visible to your friends, the comment is visible to all the friends of the person who posted the comment. Got that? Think: If you post an "Is 5 o'clock here yet?" status update, even if you're not Facebook friends with your boss, one of your co-workers might be, and if she comments on your post, you could be cooked.
You can change that by going to settings >> privacy settings >>. Once there, make sure "posts by friends," "comments on posts" and "posts by me" are all "only friends."
What do you do if you're dating someone who wants to make it official by changing Facebook statuses, while you still feel like It's Complicated or even -- "It's none of your damn business, Facebook"?
Eliminate your relationship status altogether by going to settings >> privacy settings >> privacy (manage) >> profile information >> Family and Relationship >> Custom Settings >> "Make this visible to "Only Me." This is also helpful to avoid that weird 21st-century problem of taking your now ex off your profile.
Need to Know: What Does Facebook Do With Your Information
So we've covered how you can control what info you put out there, but what's Facebook doing with the info they have, and how are they using it? In a recent interview with a Facebook employee, The Rumpus
reports on all sorts of information about Facebook data, which is to say, your data. Here's an excerpt (you can read the whole thing here
Rumpus: When you say "click on somebody's profile," you mean you save our viewing history?
Employee: That's right. How do you think we know who your best friends are? But that's public knowledge; we've explicitly stated that we record that. If you look in your type-ahead search, and you press "A," or just one letter, a list of your best friends shows up. It's no longer organized alphabetically, but by the person you interact with most, your "best friends," [editor's note: those you stalk the most] or at least those whom we have concluded you are best friends with.
And what about our photos? There have been constant rumors that Facebook owns and sells your personal photos once you post them, but this isn't exactly true. The Facebook blog
There have been misleading rumors recently about the use of your photos in ads. Don't believe them. These rumors were related to third-party applications, and not ads shown by Facebook... The advertisements that started these rumors were not from Facebook but placed within applications by third parties. Those ads violated our policies by misusing profile photos, and we already required the removal of those deceptive ads from third-party applications before this rumor began spreading.
If you're still worried about those third-party applications, you can restrict your photos more by going to
Settings >> Application Settings>> then use the drop-down menu to organize and the X to remove apps you don't trust.
Need to Know: Privacy Issues
Just last week, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg gave his opinions
on why Facebook's privacy settings have gotten more lax recently, essentially saying that the Age of Privacy is over, and that they changed the privacy settings to reflect the changing social norms. So essentially, this is all our fault.
We're not telling you to stop using social networking sites, because we're not going to stop using them, but this is just a reminder: Always be aware of what information you're putting out there. It's your life, and whether you like it or not, being on Facebook makes you a bit of a public figure. So post carefully. There are attempts to create software to totally eliminate your social media profiles, but they've been banned. A few weeks ago, Suicide Machine
, which helps you permanently take yourself off the grid on Facebook, Myspace, Twitter and LinkedIn was blocked
by Facebook. Creepy and controlling, right? They also recently banned an app that lets you see who's defriended you
(though we suppose that's more in line with protecting users' privacy). The British neuroscientist Baroness Susan Greenfield said
Real-life conversations are, after all, far more perilous than those in the cyberworld. They occur in real time, with no opportunity to think up clever or witty responses, and they require a sensitivity to voice tone [and] body language
... Although it might seem an extreme analogy, I often wonder whether real conversation in real time may eventually give way to these sanitized and easier screen dialogues, in much the same way as killing, skinning and butchering an animal to eat has been replaced by the convenience of packages of meat on the supermarket shelf.
Maybe it's time to go out and do some hunting.
Tell Us: What are your Facebook conundrums and how can we help you solve them?