Search This Blog

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Falling Out of Facebook

Photo by opensourceway, via Flickr. Created by Ruth Suehle

When I first joined Facebook, my tagline was "I hate Facebook."

A year into my Facebook addiction, I realized my old tagline wasn't true anymore and I changed it to "I love nachos."  This is still true.  I REALLY love nachos.  

The strange thing is that I'm starting to find truth in my old tagline again.

With the roll out of the new Facebook Timeline, I've been seriously contemplating a significant reduction in my participation on the site.  As Facebook has applied changes over the last year, I've realized that my privacy features are not completely under my control and as a result I've (believe it or not) reduced my participation on the site.

About a year ago, I created a profile for Apple and decided that I wouldn't friend her so I could confirm that my privacy settings were correct. The "View As" option on FB didn't have a "Friends of Friends" setting and I had been getting strange comments in person about stuff on my profile from people I wasn't friends with.  

Looking at my page from Apple's profile, I was often stunned by the amount of stuff that showed up on my profile even though I had everything (except a few albums and my friends list) set to "Friends Only."  

For example, my wall is set to "Friends Only,"  but viewing my page from Apple's profile, I could see a number of posts because I had tagged other people in those posts. Apple was friends with one of the people I had tagged, and as a result, she could see my original wall post and all the comments that followed. 

I realized that my privacy setting no longer guaranteed that my wall posts were only for my Friends. I had to also rely on the privacy settings of my friends to keep my wall conversations private and my privacy was only as good as the privacy settings of my Facebook friends.

After that discovery, I went through and removed all the tags on my wall posts as far back as I could find. It seemed to solve the problem.  I had already been filtering tag requests for photos and wall posts, but I hadn't really considered that the tags I made on posts on my own wall were as public as the people I tagged in them.

There have also been a few strange moments where I had commented on a post of a friend's wall and subsequently had 3 of my friends - who had no direct connection to the original poster - make comments in response to my comment on the original post.  

The "D commented on Smitty Smith's photo" line showed up in the Ticker and even though my friends didn't know Smitty Smith, they were now a part of a conversation on his wall.  Smitty had just converted to the new timeline and  didn't realize he needed to adjust all of his privacy settings for every individual post. Now people he didn't know were having a conversation on his page and my comment on his page was completely viewable to anyone that decided to look at his page that day.

In the older versions of Facebook, you could tweak your settings so that comments on other people's walls or pictures didn't show up on your wall or in the news feed even if they were on a public page.   Someone would have to go to that public page, like it, and then search for my comment to see it. Facebook now serves up those public comments to your friends on a platter. 

Remember when you'd read comments on other people's pictures and not be able to understand what was happening in the conversation because people were responding to questions that didn't appear on your screen?  That was because the mystery person had their privacy settings set up so that people that were not friends with them couldn't see ANYTHING they wrote ANYWHERE on the site.  I want that back. 

I understand that my comments on public pages are public - just as this blog is public. I would just prefer that I could control how those conversations are broadcast to my extended network - I'd like the option to turn off the feed to the ticker, turn off comment tracking and to selectively accept specific tags.  I would prefer that there be an option to keep myself cloaked in privacy even when participating on a public page.  

I have no problem gushing about my Doctor Who fanaticism among other Doctor Who fans on a fan page, but most of my Facebook friends are not Doctor Who fans and I don't need them seeing every comment I make on a post about an episode they never watched and don't care about. 

I end up having to assume that everything I post anywhere on Facebook is probably public and permanent even if I never intended it to be so.  I have to choose to participate publicly or not participate in the community at all.  I've been choosing not to participate at all.  

I don't think I'll quit Facebook when my profile is forced to transition to Timeline (because I think it's important to stay in touch with changing tech) I just think I will find myself removing everything from it rather than risk a privacy fumble. I had to do this with over 300 blog entries I deleted on my old MySpace profile after their MySpace 2.0 made blogs public even if the profile itself was private. I did save a copy of all of them before deleting and likewise, I will probably just export a copy of my Facebook page for my own use before I start deleting pictures and posts.  

It's a shame, because I loved sharing with my friends - I just don't like unintentionally sharing with everyone else and their mother because a mutual friend happened to comment on my photo or tag me in a wall post.

I know Facebook is free - but so is my e-mail.  If my e-mail policy suddenly changed and I had to mark every message in my inbox "private" or else it would be shared with all the people in my address book, I think I would cancel my e-mail account without hesitation.  

I know that I am not the consumer in the Facebook relationship, I am the product being sold.  The more I share, the more free information I give to Facebook to sell to its advertisers and sponsors. On top of all the unexpected sharing,  the app-linking drives me nuts, I hate the "Highlighted Stories" in the feed, I hate the Ticker features, and I don't play games or participate in polls. I don't know if Facebook is the best social networking site for me anymore anyway.  

What I'm getting at is that it's not so long Facebook... it's just, I'll see you way less Facebook, and you'll see me way less. 

Besides, I have Pinterest to kill time now.

If you're looking for privacy info and resources related to Facebook, check out this site: 


  1. Great blog. My thoughts exactly. This is definitely the end of Facebook as we have known it. On to the next thing.

  2. Unfortunately, even with deleting the items from your facebook page does not remove them from the web. If hard coded links are out there, people will still be able to find posts and photos. And I don't see Zuckerberg doing anything about it to fix the issue.


Your Thoughts?