Facebook: How Much Do You Want the World to See?

Updated: Feb 19, 2019

Facebook burst onto the scene about 15 years ago, and people have been sharing every tiny little detail about themselves ever since. Only in the last few years has an awareness developed that maybe we shouldn’t be sharing so much information about ourselves. In some cases, the damage is done. People have been hacked, have lost their jobs, and some have lost their lives because of a Facebook post. However, the number of active Facebook users continues to rise, now over 1 billion.

Facebook doesn’t appear to be going away, so how can we navigate these seemingly uncharted waters? There are two main areas to look for when dealing with Facebook. The first is privacy. How much information are you putting on Facebook? Who gets to view that information? Is any of that information sensitive data? The second area is reputation. Are you posting that drunk photo of you at your friend’s bachelorette party? Will your employer see the picture you are about to post? Is what you are about to post going to endanger your job or your safety in any way? This world is about how to navigate Facebook in a world where everyone seems to be posting every little tiny detail about themselves. Facebook itself is not an evil. Like all tools, is how it is used that matters.

First let’s discuss matters of privacy on Facebook. When you first open your Facebook account, it requests a birthdate. This is mainly to ensure that children under the age of 13 are not using the platform. Beyond that, your birthday is used for marketing purposes. It targets you and your audience based on the typical things that people your age like to see and do. However, unless targeted marketing is extremely important to you, your birthday is not only unnecessary but unsafe. Coupled with your hometown, which most people also put on Facebook, your birth date can be used to figure out the first five digits of your Social Security number. The last four or just research. So with your Facebook page and a little hacking, any identity thief could figure out your Social Security number, and who knows what they can do with that! It is better to keep the year and make up the month and day. If you really want to avoid as a marketing, used the year to make yourself so old nobody wants to market to you. Try January 1, 1903; something like that should do the trick.

The second factor involved in privacy on your Facebook page is who can see the things you post and who can participate on your page. These things are remedied in the privacy settings. Here, you can set certain posts to be totally private or available only to your friends. You can also allow only certain people to post on your page, and you can set it up so that when you’re tagged in a photo or a post, you can review it before it posted to your page.

Beyond that, there are the endless privacy tips that you’ve probably heard a million times. Don’t use your Facebook to log into other apps. Have a strong password. Don’t use that same password to log into other apps. Facebook now has two factor authentication, which you can use to further increase your security on your Facebook page. None of these solutions are perfect, but they are a start.

The second main area when dealing with Facebook is your reputation. Employers and college recruiters are increasingly vetting candidates based on their social media. They’re looking for things like common sense, restraint, self-control, honesty on your resume, people you are connected to, whether or not you can keep your inflammatory opinion to yourself. Yes, I am sure everyone at one time or another has gotten into a Facebook rant. Politics and our culture seem to drag the worst out of all of us. This is not necessarily what employers and college recruiters are worried about; rather, they’re looking for how you will fit in with the climate of the school or the workplace. Do you frequently get into Facebook rants? Do you post every opinion that comes through your mind? Do you post racist or sexist comments? Do you exercise restraint when necessary? Do you work well with others? There are many stories a people who have made the wrong decision and posted something inflammatory and lost their jobs as a result. Again, it is not that you think these things, but rather that you find it necessary to post them for all the world to see. This shows a lack of restraint, self-control, and a willingness to work well with others. No employer wants that.

Photos are another element to Facebook that is worth particular discussion. It is fine to go out and have fun or have a drink or wear a swimsuit on the beach, and it is perfectly acceptable to take photos of these experiences. But those photos should get no further than your paper photo album. Never should they be posted to Facebook. Teachers especially should be wary of posting inappropriate photos to Facebook. More than a few teachers have lost their jobs for posting a distasteful photo. Again, no one is saying you do not have a right to have fun, and no one is saying that you cannot take pictures of these experiences; just don’t post them. The world doesn’t need to see that stuff anyway.

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