Facebook. Founded in 2004, this revolutionary social networking site had 955 million monthly and 552 million daily active users at the end of June 2012. This site allows you to connect or re-connect with family and friends separated by distance, make new friends, swap information, share hobbies (photos, music, sites, etc.), and even play games. For many, Facebook is the first site they log into in the morning and the last site they log out of at night. Yet it is not always fun and games.
Due to the nature of the social networking site, misunderstandings and arguments have arisen from status events, sometimes even relationships have been broken, and even jobs have been lost. Facebook, like most modern media, is a double-edged sword: it can be used for good or could be misused and cause great harm. If you use Facebook or have considered jumping on the bandwagon, what can you do to keep from being sucked into the black hole?
Today I will be sharing three things you can do to make your Facebook experience more enjoyable and more secure.
The first and most important thing to consider is the privacy settings of your Facebook account. The default privacy is Public, which means everyone and anyone with an Internet connection has access to everything you post, share, like, or comment on. If you don’t want your actions broadcasted to everyone, you need to change your account’s privacy settings to Friends.
How To Do It: When logged into your Facebook account, you will see a little upside triangle on the top right of the page (to the right of the ‘Home’ link). Click this upside triangle and select ‘Settings’ from the drop-down options.
On the General Settings page that loads, select “Privacy” from the left sidebar to go to the Privacy Settings and Tools page.
Edit the first option, “Who can see my stuff?”, and choose your privacy settings. You can change it to Friends. If you want to have a default setting even more restrictive, you can select More Options and a dialogue box will appear. You can select the lists or individual friends you want to use as a default.
Note: This default privacy setting will apply to status updates and photos you post to your timeline from a Facebook app that does not have the inline audience selector, like Facebook for Blackberry or iPhone. When you post via a computer, you can manually choose the privacy setting for that specific status update or photo from the inline audience selector, as seen in the image below.
There are also other privacy settings that you should look at and decide upon. Under Privacy, you can decide who can contact you, who can look you up, and whether your profile is searched by outside search engines (like Google).
Timeline and Tagging controls who can post on your Timeline (previously called Wall), who can see what others have posted to your Timeline, who can tag you in photos and posts, who can see photos and posts you have been tagged in, etc.
Blocking is a bit self-explanatory but important. You can block people and apps from accessing your Facebook, block receiving messages or event invites and more.
Notifications allows you to decide what method (if any) you would like to use to be notified of Facebook activity.
Remember, the stricter your privacy settings, the more secure your Facebook account and personal information will be. This will not only keep you safe from phishing and malicious apps, but also help make your Facebook experience more pleasant overall.
Accepting and Rejecting Friend Requests
The next most important task has to do with sending, accepting, and rejecting Friend requests. Let me be very clear: You have absolutely NO obligation to accept every single Friend request that you receive.
To avoid needless drama, stress, and other unpleasantness, you need to be cautious who you accept as a Friend and you who reject. Just because you attended high school together x-number of years ago does not mean that you must let that individual into your life via Facebook today. Participating in social networking, like Facebook, can leave you vulnerable to malicious acts if you are not careful with whom you share your personal information and details about your daily life.
There are many individuals who pose as potential friends yet whose sole purpose is to steal your personal information, such as usernames, passwords, phone numbers, birthdays, etc. This is known as Phishing, and can result in your identity being stolen or worse.
I highly encourage you to establish a personal policy regarding what type of requests you accept and reject. For example, my personal policy is to accept Friend requests from individuals: 1.) family members, 2.) I know personally in real life, 3.) I have known for at least five years online through a safe community and we have become very close friends, and/or 4.) share similar views and I get along with.
I have received and rejected countless friend requests from strangers, I have known in the past (such as from high school or my early college years) and even people I know right now. Think carefully before accepting a request: Is this individual someone you know? Someone you can trust? Would you consider them a genuine friend? Do you share similar interests or views on the important topics?
There is no prize for having an extraordinary number of friends. If you do not choose your Facebook friends carefully, you will suffer from frustration, stress, and unnecessary drama. Facebook should be a pleasant experience, not torture. Just as you would not allow a random stranger to walk freely into your home and start making a meal in your kitchen or be privy to intimate conversations between you and your closest family and friends, you need to be smart about who you allow into your virtual “home”, aka your Facebook account.
Facebook has a very handing feature called Lists. Basically, you can use the default lists (Family, Close Friends, etc.) or create custom lists that you can then group your friends into. Lists not only help you later one when you want to choose who among your friends you want to share specific status updates or photos with (through the inline audience selector), but it is also a faster and easier way of getting rid of unwanted junk from your ticker/News Feed. You can choose the update types you want to receive or not receive from each list, turn email or Facebook notifications on or off, and other important control settings.
How To Do it: When logged into your Facebook account, there is a column to the left and within that column is an area titled “Friends”. It should show a default number of lists: Close Friends, Family, etc. Hover on “Friends” and a “More” link appears to the right. Click it to be taken to the list page. Here you see all of the default Facebook lists and have the option of creating your own custom lists.
To edit a list, click the list’s name. You will be taken to a News Feed for that particular list. At the top right, there are two gray buttons: “Notifications” and “Manage List”. Since I check Facebook regularly, I turn my notifications “off” so as to avoid cluttering up my email and Facebook messaging. Under “Manage List”, select “Choose Update Types…” and a drop-down will appear. (If it does not appear automatically, click “Manage List” one more time for it to appear.) Check or uncheck the options you want. I highly recommend unchecking “Games” and “Comments and Likes”. Repeat with the other lists.
Underneath these two gray buttons, you will see an area called “On This List (#)”. This shows you how many of your friends are on this particular list and will show the profile image of a few of them. Beneath the profile images is a box where you can add friends to the list. If you want to remove a friend from a particular list, click the gray button “Manage List” and select the first option “Edit List”. A dialogue box appears that displays all of the friends on the list. When you hover on a profile image, a white X appears in the top right corner. Clicking the X will remove that friend from that particular list.
Facebook can be a wonderful tool to keep in contact with your family and friends or an instrument of hurt and misery, depending upon how you use it. If you customize your Privacy Settings, choose carefully who you accept as Facebook friends, and make use of the lists feature, you will avoid needless drama, stress, and keep your personal information more secure.