Last night I was casually perusing my Facebook news feed and … wait a second… is that what I think it is? Well… yes. Yes, it is.
There was a picture of a — er — certain part of the female anatomy, shot at pretty close range, just… hanging out in my news feed.
(In other news, I’m pretty sure this violates Facebook’s TOS, but there it was anyway.)
Okay, sure, there are probably some people who wouldn’t call this a problem, but I didn’t want to see that. I immediately looked to see who posted this and realized that it wasn’t even one of my friends. It was a picture that someone else had posted and one of my friends had commented on.
See, if you weren’t aware, when you upload pictures with a certain privacy setting, “friends only,” say, that’s all well and good. Only your friends will see those pictures. But the minute you tag someone in them (or tag anything, for that matter), the privacy setting changes automatically to “Friends+.” Friends+ means that all of that tagged person’s friends can now see your picture and comment on it.
You might have removed people from your friends list, but mutual friends can allow them to still see many of your photos. Oh, and remember that picture you took of your friend in some kind of lewd pose? Good news! When you tagged her, you just shared it with her whole family and everyone from the children’s camp where she volunteers in the summer!
This is why you’ve been seeing an abundance of tagged photos of your friends from people you’ve never even met.
This is why people you don’t know are commenting on your photos.
And when one of your friends likes something or comments on it, that means it can potentially show up in your news feed.
The person who happened to comment on this picture that I saw is a college student. Let’s play the hypothetical game, shall we?
You’re a college student who just spent winter break in a really awesome internship. You even entertain hopes of working there in the summer to try to get your foot in the door for after graduation. You’ve added some of your colleagues or your supervisor on Facebook. Maybe you don’t feel like taking the time to set up lists because, let’s face it, a lot of people don’t. A lot of people don’t even know that much of their walls became open to public view in September and are still there for everyone to see if they haven’t updated their privacy settings since then. But I digress.
You go back to school and back to partying. Your best friend might have her photos of that raging kegger set to “Friends Only,” but as soon as she tags you in them, those pictures are “Friends+”. Not only can mom and dad see you wasted and pole-dancing at a frat house, but — surprise! — so can your supervisor from that internship.
If you’re not tagged but that picture is in a public album and you comment on it, chances are good that it’s still going to show up in your friends’ news feeds.
Which is exactly how I came to see naked lady parts last night on Facebook.
Now imagine what that would do to your odds of working with me if I were in a position to hire you. Gushing over a picture of someone’s intimate piercings — or even just liking it, for that matter — makes me believe you aren’t mature enough to come on board. You could be quite mature. It doesn’t matter. I don’t know you very well, and this is what you’re choosing to show me about yourself.
I’m a pretty advanced Facebook user and I still haven’t been able to figure out how to avoid the whole “Friends+” picture issue. If you know, please feel free to tell me in the comments because it’s been driving me crazy for months. Obviously I don’t mind if my friends see my pictures, but, even though I don’t have anything crazy, I still don’t want all of their friends to see them. I don’t know how trustworthy all of my friends’ friends are. I don’t know most of them.
So I just don’t tag anything anymore. Or I’ll tag one photo to let my friends know there are pictures of them in my newest album. I don’t really have anything to hide, but I still value privacy.
Sure, I could go through and turn off photo settings for all of my friends, or even for some friends individually, but that would mean that I might miss pictures I do want to see.
So what’s the takeaway here? Do you need to constantly censor yourself? No, probably not. But you do need to educate yourself on where your pictures, comments, and likes are ending up. Make sure you know exactly who can see them and what image of yourself you’re projecting to those people. That’s your personal brand, and social media — yes, including Facebook — is shaping it more and more all the time. If it means you have to turn on the feature that allows you to approve any tagged content (which, by the way, won’t prevent you from being tagged, but will just prevent it from showing up on your wall), so be it.
What do you do to maintain a positive image in social media, particularly on Facebook? Do you find there’s a lot of work involved? Is it something you even think about? Leave a comment and let me know your thoughts!
Image Source: Geoffrey Fairchild (gcfairch)/Flickr