223 Friends. 349 Connections. What would I tell them ALL?

June 1, 2010 at 10:15 pm Leave a comment

I have 223 Friends. Sometimes, they’re all in my family room at the same time. That’s not even a lot. Some of my friends have 500 or more friends. And they can fit these friends in their bedroom! That could be awkward.

Then, when I go to work, I’ll have 349 Connections in my office with me. Often, I’ll add a couple hundred more Followers in the room – it can be very difficult to get work done, but sometimes they help me, too. I just have to be careful what I do with them all in there.

And I’m not making this stuff up. Sure, it’s a little bit of make-believe. But this line of thinking helps me keep my online privacy in order.

With my Facebook Friends, my LinkedIn Connections, Twitter Followers and others, I am often communicating with potentially large groups of people, all at once. Some I know better than others. With some I care to share more personal or private stuff – but not with all. So when I’m on these sites, if I’m not willing to share information with all these people, I don’t share it with any. That’s a simple rule.

I suggest you enact the same rule. If you’re not willing to share something with everyone you know – and potentially everyone they know – then keep it off Facebook.

Privacy is Yours If You Really Want It

According to QuitFacebookDay.com, 32,567 current Facebook’ers plan to quit any day now. What’s that? Maybe one percent of one percent of the reported 400 Million people who have a Facebook account? QuitFacebookDay.com was created for a potential mass exodus of Facebook users on May 31, 2010 over concerns the site owners are being dishonest when it comes to user privacy. The mass exodus did not happen.

According to web-tracking site Alexa.com, Facebook’s “reach” is up nearly 3% and the site is still ranked #2 overall in the U.S. and about 25 other countries. And if you compare using Compete.com, Facebook counts more than 3 Billion visits in the month of April, beating the otherwise top-ranking Google.

Still, all the talk about privacy on Facebook makes me believe people do really care about the issue. Adults like to remind high school seniors that college recruiters can look at Facebook. They like to remind friends not to complain about their bosses on Facebook. They encourage pre-teens to be wary of friend requests from strangers.

They just don’t care enough about privacy to do much about it themselves. Or they just care more about posting photos announcing they are on vacation in Hawaii (would they post the same on the front door of their home?).

Besides Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter, I’m active with Foursquare, Flickr, and YouTube. And I have accounts set up on many more that I just haven’t done much with yet. Plus, I read and comment on lots of blogs. All these social networks are unique in what they do for me; I use them differently and for different reasons. They do, however, have one thing in common that I love: they help me build relationships much more easily than I could have a few years ago.

Still, few of these relationships are the kind where I really want to share a lot of information. Yes, it’s great fun to post photos and to espouse political opinions and to cheer for my favorite sports team. I would do any of those things with my 200+ friends in my living room, or 300+ colleagues in my office. If you wouldn’t, then don’t. And don’t do it on Facebook or LinkedIn or any online social network.

For some of you, my overly simple rule may seem silly. And you want more data so you can have better control of your information. For you, plenty of resources exist to help you learn more.

Most of these sites have a blog where developers and even guests share more detailed information about best ways to use these sites. For example, blog.facebook.com has articles about the new privacy practices. At blog.linkedin.com, you can learn about best ways to use the site, including security and privacy. If you have serious concerns about privacy on any of these sites, check the “Privacy Policy” – it should be easy to find on any social or commerce-driven website today.

Privacy on Twitter? That may not be a big issue on the site that doesn’t ask you to build a profile or share much of anything. Photo-sharing site Flickr, however, will demand much more vigilant care of information sharing.

But that’s the problem – potentially. All these sites are about information sharing. So it can be difficult to complain about privacy issues in a world built on sharing. Way back when, part of your commitment to participating fairly in kindergarten was that promise you made to share. Okay, you didn’t make that promise willingly; your parents made it for you. You did, however need to learn to share judiciously – at some times and with certain things – way back in kindergarten.

Online, it’s the same thing. You really do have complete control over the information you choose to share. And you can choose with whom you share. Or, if you just want to keep the good crayons to yourself, you can do that, too.


Entry filed under: Communications, kpcc, Social Media.

Your Grandma Created Social Media

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