Whether you call it a time-saver or a time-suck, Facebook has surpassed the almighty Google as the most trafficked website in the U.S. -- and the second most popular site in the world.
Whatever you happen to think of it, if you're not living in a cave in northern Pakistan (and maybe even if you are), you're probably using it in some manner. Need someone's contact info? Check. Birthday minders? Ditto. Photos and videos to share? Done and done. Random thoughts to send into the ether? Well, you know the drill.
But as quickly as Facebook has become an integral part of the way we communicate with friends (and "friends"), it has also raised concerns. How much sharing is too much sharing? What do Facebook and its marketing partners really know about you? And what are they doing with all of that juicy data? Men's Life Today reached out to David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World, for tips on getting the best out of Facebook while avoiding its potential dark side.
Don't Be Daft
For starters, says Kirkpatrick, if there's something with the potential to embarrass, don't post it. Despite how secure you believe your privacy settings to be, modern society is littered with Internet roadkill, like jobs lost, scholarships rescinded and relationships shattered simply because a user didn't think twice before posting. "This is a shockingly common-sense rule that many people disregard," says Kirkpatrick. But don't go too far in the opposite direction, he advises. "If you never post anything of interest, you're less likely to have anything of interest come back to you."
If your standards for accepting friends have been, shall we say, less than discerning, Kirkpatrick suggests it could be time to do some pruning. "One of the classic errors is to accept every friend request you receive," he says. The problem with such loose standards? "You're empowering these individuals over your information."
It may also be time to shed people you do know, but who don't reflect your sensibility or values (see "jobs lost," above). "If you're beginning to question their judgment, hide them from your news feed or unfriend them entirely." If we were to discard all but those whom we consider true-blue buddies, says Kirkpatrick, many of us would wind up eliminating three-quarters of our so-called friends.
Here's a little heads-up: Third-party apps gain access to your personal information when you install them. (And yes, "Mafia Wars" and "Farmville" fans, that includes you.) So be picky. "Something that looks cool, but which I've never heard of and that only a couple of my friends are using? I'm not going to adopt it," Kirkpatrick says flatly. If you already have an app installed but haven't used it in a while, delete it. Why? Because even if you're not doing anything with it, chances are its developers are still doing something with your data.
Fortunately, right before you install any app, Facebook will remind you that you're about to hand over access to your info. The choice to "allow" is up to you. Pretty simple.
Although he concedes that navigating Facebook's privacy settings can be like trying to solve a Chinese puzzle, Kirkpatrick says an investment of 45 minutes should be enough to establish settings you're comfortable with. For advice on how to get started, he recommends the site AllFacebook.com. (Search for "privacy settings.")
To be on the safe side, a good across-the-board option is "friends only." If you have a burning desire to make your life an open book for exes, frenemies and strangers, go ahead and use "everyone." If you're particularly guarded about your information, there's a custom setting called "only me" -- though if you choose this option, you might just want to delete your Facebook account altogether and go back to calling your friends on a landline. Tedious, yes, but no privacy worries!
And what about those ads in the margin that seem to know a little too much about you? They don't concern Kirkpatrick terribly. If Facebook is doing its job and serving ads that jibe with your interests, you might welcome seeing some of them. And if you don't, "they're easy to disregard," Kirkpatrick points out, explaining that one of Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg's core tenets is that advertising should not disrupt the user experience.
Despite articles like this one, Kirkpatrick knows that many of you will continue to throw caution to the wind. "Facebook is loosening inhibitions about self-display," he acknowledges, "and we're becoming a more transparent people." That's not necessarily a bad thing, he adds, but if you're going to share, just be sure you do it wisely -- or be ready for your loony-tunes ex, nosy co-worker and the rest of the world to know your business.
Thomas Farley is a regular writer for Men's Life Today. A manners and lifestyle expert, he is also the creator of the blog WhatMannersMost.com, and the host of the web television show "New York Insider TV." Follow him on Twitter at mistermanners and newyorkinsider.
Available at Amazon.com:
- Virtual World No Substitute for Real One
- Best Phone Apps for Busy Women
- How to Prevent Identity Theft
- How to Use Facebook So It Does not Use You
- Worst-case Computer Scenarios
- Google Chrome OS Notebook: A Security Game Changer?
- What Is Cloud Computing?
- How to Prevent Data Breaches
- Best Tips for Sharing Videos
- Do You Need an iPad for Your Small Business?
- The App Guide: 5 Must-have Shopping Apps
- Project Management Tips From the Pros
- Finding the Right Skill Set
- Who's Gawking at Your Photos?
- Dealing With Virtual Stalking
- Stop Cyberbullying Now!
- CES 2011 Report - Consumer Electronics Show
- Time to Gear up for 3-D TV?
- How to Get the Best Service From IT Vendors
- Dating Apps: The Lowdown
- New Website Streamlines College-Aid Application
- Gift-card Resale Market Thrives Online
- 5 Cloud Tools to Boost Your Productivity
- Mobile Pay Can Give You an Edge
- How to Find the Best Deals Online
- Should You 'Friend' Your Teens Online?
- Should You Really Post That Comment?
- 5 Smart Tactics for LinkedIn Self-Promotion
- How Repressive Regimes Use the Internet to Keep Power
- WikiLeaks: Diplomacy as Usual
- The Rising Threat of USB Drives
- Integrate Cloud Solutions With Caution
- Tech Solutions to Track Your Resolutions
- Crash Course in Computer Maintenance
- How to Pick the Right Cloud Provider
- Web Tools for Starting a Small Business
- 4 Life-changing Resolutions You Can Stick to
- Create Your Own Social Network
- What the Web Says About You
- FTC Chairman: 'Do Not Track' Rules Would Help Web Thrive
- 'Do Not Track' Rules Would Put a Stop to the Internet As We Know It
- Are Federal 'Do Not Track' Rules Needed?
- The Political Power of Social Media
- Top 3 Kid-safe Social Networks
- 5 Ways to Cultivate Your Kids' Online Reputation
- Preparing Our Children for Global Digital Citizenship Success
- The Great E-reader Roundup
- The NFL's Highest-scoring Apps
- New Gadgets Straight From the Big Screen
- A Game Plan for Protecting Stored Data
- The Drive for Real-time Collaboration
- Hang Onto People Who'll Help You Advance
- Leading New Developments in Visual Computing
- Meet Mr. Industrial: Justin Lassen's Music Machine
- Must-see TV on the Internet
- Share Safely on Social Networks
- 6 Essential Rules for Safe Online Shopping
- Five Steps to Kid-friendly Surfing
- High-tech Help for Weight Loss
- Create a Web Site or Blog for Your Family
- Video Eyewear for Sunglass Cinema
- Smart Phone Apps Help Stop Distracted Driving
- Online Computer Backup Services Remove Hassle
- Cut Your Carbon Footprint and Save Money With New Gadgets
- The 25 Best Apps for iPads, iPhones and Droids
- Government Takes a Step Toward Cloud Computing
- Is Our Obsession With Internet-Based Media Veering Into Addiction?
- Stop Information Overload
- Cool Technology Tools for a Carefree Life
- Apple iPhone versus Google Android
- Apple Enters Rental Biz
- Cool Technology and Gadgets for Hot Summer Fun
- Smart Tools For a Paperless Home
- Formspring.me - Teens' Ugly Scrawlings Go High Tech
- Guide to Great Educational Websites for Kids
- 5 Social Media Tools for College Students
- 5 Do's and Don'ts for College Students Using Social Media
- Is Facebook Killing Your Mojo?
- Internet Safety Tips for Teens
- 10 Cool Gadget Gifts for Grads
- New DVR Recorders Do More Than Record TV
- 4G Networks Promise True Wireless Broadband
- Tools That Make it Easy to Network Home PCs
- GPS: Cool Devices That Know Where They Are
- Ultimate HDTV HD Television Buying Guide
- How to Save With Cutting-Edge Tech
- Suddenly Instant Photos Are Everywhere
- Technology Opens Doors for Investors
- The Art of Self-Marketing Online
- Is Your Next Job a Click Away?
- Archiving Twitter Tweets: Dumbing Down Journalism
- These Financial Blogs Are Worth Your Time
- iPad Launch: Perils of the iPad
- iPad Launch: What Buyers Need to Know
- Apple's iPad: 5 Reasons Why the Apple Tablet Will Flop
- Apple's iPad: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- 'Dotcom' Turns 25: Predictions for What Comes Next
- Costly Incompatible Glasses Threaten 3D TV Sales
- Mobile Tech That Stole the Decade
- The Biggest Technology Flops of the Decade
- M.B.A. Programs Are Biting Apple's iPad
- Democracy in Cyberspace
- The Digital Disruption
- Bashing Bosses on Social Media
- New Applications Turning Cell Phones Into Medical Devices
- Job Hunting With Smart Phones
- Nobel Winner Right About Risks of e-Books
Copyright © 2011 Studio One Networks. All rights reserved.