Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Oversharing on Facebook

Yesterday (Tuesday 7th February) was Safer Internet Day, apparently. Last week I blogged about the Facebook Ticker and how to tell who can see various posts on the site, turns out that post was inadvertantly timely! I just wanted to add a little more about watching how we share things on social networks.

Every morning this week I have heard an odd advert on Radio 1, each with a different DJ saying something along the lines of "oh, that's gross... that's disgusting! I can't believe he's put that photo on his timeline!" and a strapline broadly saying "If you would be embarrassed for your Grandma to see it, don't put it on Facebook". It's a good message and there's more info about the Share Take Care campaign here.

I'm nearly 31, and so for my peer group Facebook (and other online social sites) came along when we were (mostly) beyond the age when we would routinely embarrass ourselves on our frequent nights out. Most of the worst photos are in paper, not digital format, and even then, I remember not taking my camera on a night out as it was to expensive to risk being damaged. But for those a decade younger than us (and more) who have grown up with cheap digital cameras and camera phones, their years of drinking to excess may be captured forever on their social networks if they aren't too careful. My friends and I were talking the other day (in a pub, ironically) about this and one friend thinks that this generation will have a rude awakening when they come to apply for jobs and find that much of their social life from the past few years is searchable by anyone through Facebook, Twitter and Google.

So I just wanted to reiterate what I said last week about getting your privacy settings right on your personal page (and encourage your teenagers to do so too, if you have them!).  Although it's not just a problem for teenagers - this 50 year old primary school teacher in South Wales was disciplined by her professional body for inappropriate Facebook updates about drinking. It's also not just a problem for personal pages - any comment you make on your business page or Twitter feed may be searchable by people interested in your business.

If you're cross about something and tempted to vent about it on your business page, give yourself a day to cool down and reconsider. Even if it's something that seemingly can't reflect badly on you, it is probably more professional not to use your page in this way. Personally I find it a turn off when I see a business page being negative about others, no matter how obscure, eg "Just to let you know all my pin cushions are all HAND SEWN by ME unlike certain OTHER pin cushion makers out there". It can be a difficult tightrope to walk, though - as small businesses run by one person, one of our main assets is the personal touch we are able to share with our customers. The previous example could instead be much more positive: "Did you know my pin cushions are all completely hand sewn? My thumbs are suffering for my perfectionism though, ouch!". If you have genuine issues with another person or business then it's best dealt with in private; public spats will damage everyone involved regardless of where the fault lies.

It's almost impossible to have a satisfying rant while remaining completely professional, but if you really feel you must try, stick to the facts and perhaps get someone else to look at the post first to help you remain as polite, objective and business-like as possible - strong personal feelings are probably best kept on personal pages (unless you are purposely trying to inflame debate, but that can be a dangerous tactic!).

Happy sharing, people!


  1. I have been having a real facebook freak out htis week. I posted a picture to my private profile, nothing embaressing just a personal photo taken in my home. A friend commented on t his photo and it came up in the timeline/ticker of a pub that she is friends with on FB. Luckily my SIL was there and told me about the barman discussing the pic of my Dad!! ALL of my settings are set to friends only, I have been through every direction and all of my settings should be secure, yet they turned out not to be. So I have had a complete knee jerk reaction and removed all pics of my kids etc.

    And yes I totally agree on your venting point, it is never going to look good. I remember a blogger giving tips once and her main one was that your latest post is the first thing that a new reader will see when they click on your blog. The same should be said for FB, we should always be mindful that new people will look at our page and our last post is tghe first thing they see! x

  2. That's such a good tip LeeAnn re the first thing a new reader will see!!

    That sucks about your photos. This is why I get irritated with FB, yes they may have guidelines on how you can share pics, but the fact is that if they are so complicated that a normal person trying to be careful can't work out who's going to be able to see it, there's a problem. The other problem I have is that you can't prevent friends tagging themselves in your photos (although you can delete the tag after), which means their settings then override yours and all their friends can see. Grr!