The geek universe is up in arms about Facebook, deleting personal accounts right and left calling Mark Zuckerberg an ambitious, almost criminal violator aiming to take over the world, and moaning about the end of privacy. Ever since Matt McKeon’s incredible visualization of the changes in Facebook privacy laws over the years, the clamor has been unending.
Relax. We are all still all alive and well. Rather than overreact and lose the convenience of meeting new people and connecting with far-flung friends and relatives, let’s take some simple principles for dealing with Facebook with us and move on.
1. Always remember that Facebook is a business. Of course it is going to try to advertise to you, because it doesn’t charge you to use the service. Get over it. If you are satisfied with the service, you can put up with a few ads — you’ve done it for years with newspapers and television. And at least on Facebook, the ads are targeted. Do you like talking to your long-lost high school boyfriend, or seeing pictures of your cousin’s trip to Montana, you should be willing to trade your demographics for that convenience.
2. No one is forcing you to post all your intimate details. Just because there’s a space to enter your relationship status doesn’t mean you MUST do it. You can leave it blank, or you can fake it. If you don’t want someone to see what you drank in Hawaii, put those photos in an email to your friends rather than on Facebook. As Eric Schmidt once said, “If you don’t want someone to know what you are doing, you probably shouldn’t be doing it.” Eric Schmidt, remember, isn’t the CEO of Facebook, he’s the CEO of Google: “do no evil.” If you are putting something on a computer, assume it could be on the front page of TMZ tomorrow. Which brings me to the next point.
3. Remember that Google has as much or more information about you than Facebook. Last night, just for fun, my daughter looked at a picture of her friend’s house. She found the address on one service, and then used Google street view to find the house. You can be found on the internet without being on Facebook. Who is indexing the entire web? Google. And with Google, you didn’t even choose to have an account.
4. Facebook has privacy rules. Read them and use them. Yes, they’ve become more complicated, but there’s a simple way to deal with them if you are paranoid. Mark everything “only friends,” and lock down your “friending” to people you actually know. Indeed, there are some glitches here, involving whether friends of friends can have access, but assume the best.
5. Don’t switch from a personal account to a fan page thinking it’s a solution. If you are a business or a personal brand and are sending all the traffic looking for you on the web to Facebook, you are doing the wrong thing no matter what the privacy rules. You are helping Facebook grow:-) You should own your data, and the first page people see online should be controlled by you, not by Facebook. Don’t use Facebook in lieu of a personal or business web site. If you want to aggregate all the information about yourself, use WordPress or some other open and free software. I love this quotation from Jason Calcanis’ web log:
Didn’t anyone read “Tom Sawyer”? We’re whitewashing Zuckerberg’s fence.
People are creating fan pages on Facebook and then paying Facebook to
send them traffic. Let me explain this one more time: You’re PAYING
Mark Zuckerberg money to send traffic to HIS SITE. Think about it.
In my own case, I decided long ago to be transparent, and to put as much information as I felt comfortable with out on the web so I could control it. This strategy has worked extremely well for me, because I am not blindsided. Part of that decision came from my many years in public relations, where I learned that if you don’t put good information out in public, people will make up their own stuff about you, good or bad. Don’t take the chance.
The over-arching lesson I’d like to leave you with is this: think. If you think before you post, and remember that everything you do is public, you can use Facebook however you wish.