Proper Facebook Etiquette

#738 Facebook Intelligence: A (not so) Secret Service.

Sunday 5th July, 2009

I think I may have (unintentionally) committed a social ‘faux pas’. Both my husband and I have Facebook accounts – as do our children. We’re a close family and enjoy spending time together. Our family photos are tagged and we enjoy commenting on each others feeds. Now I am getting criticised for being ‘too open’ and am ‘stupid’ for revealing potentially ‘sensitive’ information about my family and myself. I should add that my husband is to be promoted to a high-placed post later this year and his employer is particularly sensitive about potentially damaging information. Everyone else seems to enjoy posting to Facebook as much as we do. Was I wrong to bond with my family in this way? And can I regain my good social graces in the wake of such criticisms? – which have been considerable and far-reaching.

I can understand the enjoyment aspect of Facebook you share with your family, something we (including myself) take for granted with our friends and others. Offline such interactions can be arranged in your own ‘private’ bubble of the moment. For example, when you are in the pub sharing confidences on a Friday night – your conversation(s) are in that particular moment and only with those in your immediate social vicinity. Of course, there is opportunity for such exchanges to be forwarded through texts and repeated at a another time and date but, unlike Facebook, your actions will not be captured as a recorded moment for all to pass comment on – even those who are not in the pub with you.

To take the pub metaphor further, if Facebook were a pub and you were sharing your holiday or night out photos with friends, then even those friends who were not present have access to the same images, can pass comment, and will receive the updating of images in their newsfeeds. IF (as I suspect IS the case) you have left your Facebook account wide OPEN to anyone and everyone then there is also the chance that such posts/images/content etc can be retrieved by complete strangers who share the same network(s) as you. This means not only your children’s friends, your husbands friends, your friends of friends, but their friends of friends and so on… Including your husbands boss. In short you are (potentially) communicating at a level that is akin to posting the content onto every news site, into every public arena and every inbox around the world and back again. Possibly several times over.

I am hoping for your sake that you, and your family, are the of the appealing and naturally photogenic variety. Then at least you need not regret a humiliation of vanity proportions. No-one wants to view an amass of uglies.

Have you paid attention to the top right corner of Facebook? Under Settings, click-through to Privacy and there you will begin to regain your control and social composure. I would recommend that you completely ‘hide’ your’s and your families accounts on Facebook. This means that you will NOT appear in public feeds and should not be ‘picked’ up through Google searches. Be careful too with any third party applicatoins that you, and your family, may have attached to your account(s). These will also replicate your information across numerous web portals and other sites.

I could explain why your husband’s employer and his new boss is so critical of your actions, but I cannot muster up the energy to state the obvious (again) in terms of the potentially damaging effects of broadcasting information across Facebook. I suspect that this is a similar attitude that you are being met with from ‘friends’ who – also ‘critical’ of your carelessness – and in the wake of other unpalatable sources of fallout, their’s is best received as a muted silence.

On the plus side, you paint a positive picture (and, indeed, have posted pictures) that show a close family unit and with a strong bond – and so you can take solace in your solidarity. Perhaps, (if you choose not to update your Privacy settings) take some pictures and share your families (inner) strength with the rest of Facebook?… We can all then enjoy a heartwarming tale of the family bond that overcomes critisicm together against all the odds. Although you’ll need a thicker skin than mine for this.

Another point in your defence (well more your husbands) is that men, in particular, are notoriously bad at communication and ‘opening up’. Perhaps your actions were a latent and subconscious desire to be more open with others. Are you trying to elevate your position to the reputation of new heights of familial bliss with those in your social circle?… ‘look at me!’, ‘look at me!’

Your dilemma also suggests that yours is a family where confidences are shared willy-nilly, appear as organic and form a natural part of your daily communication. However, it also suggests an immaturity (nay, naivety) where the sensible levels of social discretion have disappeared and escaped your grasp. I could give you the Privacy Lecture in terms of the sharing of information, but really, why bother? You must be one of the few who is without awareness of, not only his/her own information, but your families being ‘put out’ to others across Facebook. Shame on you.

And so the situation is thus, you did something that (now) you regret. Though we are not dealing with criminal actions here (I assume that your family are not pictured smoking pot, hunting fluffy animals, robbing banks etc.), but – in your defence – it is not like you were deliberately malicious and nor do you pose a deviant danger to society. Remember though, that you are sharing aspects of yourself with others who may not be so ‘innocent’. There is a very real risk here that such others can seek to exploit your information sources: Have you included your date of birth, tagged pictures as ‘home’ which include a street name and then updated your Profile to show that you are ‘away on holiday’? This is a potentially open invite to ‘please come rob my house’, or even to clone your identity for other deviant activities. It sounds like you may have caught things in time for a cold slap of reality round the chops. Things could have been much worse. Those nice dining room chairs may have been pinched and sold on ebay.

Do not take all the blame yourself. Your family sound equally culpable in their neglect of their Privacy and so take as an example the criticism currently directed at you – a compelling lesson (for us all) is the lack of your social awareness skills. Your guilt should now be manifest as a discontentment with yourself for ‘being so stupid’ and a lack of focus in terms of what you were sharing and with whom. When it comes down to looking after each other, remember first and foremost you also need to take care of number one. Start with your own Privacy Settings and then you can look out for your family and friends too. It is not conducive to ‘good social graces’ to keep everything ‘out in the open’ and everyone informed about what you are doing. You are not your own feature on News24.

To move on, initiate discussion for a positive spin – whilst there may be some keen to squeeze you for all the gory details (really you wore that on holiday?!), now is the time to take a step back and keep dignified social silence. Embrace this dignity and allow yourself time to wash out the criticism of others. Once this issue is dealt with (that easy click of Setting options in the top right tab of your Facebook account) your harshest critics no longer have a hold over you. I suggest, seeing how close you are, that you work with your family and friends to work on a way forward. In short, unite, but don’t post it all to Facebook.

Like all posts on this blog, this is completely ficticious, but has been inspired by the recent (stupid) actions of The Married couple and husband who works for the secret service.

2 Responses to “#738 Facebook Intelligence: A (not so) Secret Service.”

  1. Dr Mariann Hardey says:

    @ Bond, Status Update should be secret – otherwise read: 'In double '0' heaven'

  2. Anonymous says:

    Funny – James Bond Facebook problem what is my status?

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