Adjusting Privacy Settings on Facebook

In his book “Public Parts”, Jeff Jarvis writes:

Public and private are choices we make: to reveal or not, to share or not, to join or not. Each has benefits, each has hazards. We constantly seek a balance between the two – only today, technology brings new choices, risks, and opportunities.(1)

This has never been more true than with Facebook. With technology we are walking a thinner and thinner line between publicness and privacy. You must be the decider of how great or how little you want of each. The tools to make this decision in Facebook exist, if you know where to look.

When it comes to privacy settings, no social network is more confusing than Facebook . It seems that the purveyors of Facebook want you to embrace the Facebook philosophy when you use it: be as public as possible. But if you’re like most people, you’d prefer to remain at least somewhat private. The following are some tips on how to keep some level of discretion when using Facebook .

Keeping your Facebook status private

The easiest way to maintain your privacy on Facebook is when writing and posting a status update. Before you decide to post the picture from cousin Jimmy’s bachelor party, consider the menu just to the left of the “post” button. When you click on it, you will find a drop-down menu with which you can choose who can see the post. The easiest way to maintain some privacy is to choose “friends”. If you have lists set-up (and you probably don’t), then you can choose from and even smaller group of friends to show your photo. You can also set up “lists” that break down your friends into even smaller sub-groups, like family members and co-workers, giving you even greater control over who can see your individual posts.

Facebook’s general privacy settings

If you don’t want or need to splash your personal life all over the internet for the world to see, then perhaps you should consider setting up general privacy rules. At the top right of your Facebook page, you can click an arrow that features a drop-down menu with a selection for “Privacy Settings”. This is a much larger menu of settings that will take a little bit of time to work with. These include settings for how you can control your “wall”, your profile, even your ability to be searched for, to a more private setting. The range of settings are a little too big to go through step-by-step in this article, so you’ll want to take some time to decide the depth of your privacy for yourself. Do you want people to easily search for you on Facebook? Set the “Who can see your name or profile info” to “Everyone”. Do you want to limit who can send you messages on Facebook ? Set the “Who can send you Facebook messages” to “Friends”, or even “Friends of Friends”. (The “Friends of Friends” setting refers to the people your “friends” have on their friends list, but who are not on yours.) There’s no right or easy way to do this, and you will have to decide for yourself how public you’d like to be.

Keeping things VERY private on Facebook

If you are extremely worried about privacy on Facebook , then you should be very careful about who you friend. If your boss wants to friend you but you don’t want him/her on your friends list, then the best policy is to say no. Be polite and tell him/her that you only use Facebook for close friends and family, or say you only use it to keep in touch with siblings. Most people are very understanding. Of course the other option is to stay off of Facebook altogether. Unfortunately, if you choose to do so you could be missing out on a terrific opportunity to communicate with those closest to you, and that doesn’t seem like any choice at all.


1. Jarvis, Jeff. Public Parts. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster , 2011. Print

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