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Check Your Social Network Privacy Settings!

There’s an interesting article in the Chronicle of Higher Education that is a good indicator of how social media really is altering things significantly for even those in the Ivory Tower. Though the article is specifically about the role of social networking in academia, I think the following paragraphs could apply to just about any professional who happens to use Facebook, or some other social media tool:

“It would be tempting to just chuck the computer out the window (and there were rumors of professors doing just that in the early days of e-mail). But Facebook, like e-mail, yields more pros than cons, so the trick is to learn to master it rather than ignore it. That’s according to Nicole B. Ellison, an assistant professor at Michigan State University, who spent the past three years researching student behavior on Facebook, and who uses it herself. ‘There’s tremendous potential with these social networks for developing relationships and being exposed to different perspectives,’ she says. They are particularly well suited to academic work, where researchers need to keep up with a number of far-flung colleagues.

Just don’t forget that what you say on Facebook is often flung far, and you should work to control, or at least be aware of, who your audience is.

‘Once faculty read this story, many of them will immediately go and check their privacy settings’ on Facebook, said Ms. Ellison.

Here’s what you should check: Under ‘Settings,’ look for the ‘Privacy’ section. Click on ‘Profile’ to control who can see your pages. The default is to share with anyone on your network — many professors join the network for their college, but some might choose the one for the city where they live — along with anyone marked as a ‘friend.’ You may want to change that setting to ‘Only Friends,’ to keep out others who happen to be on your network.”

You know, I check the privacy settings often, mostly because (and maybe I missed the ‘memo’ on this) I noticed a few months back several new and more sophisticated settings. For instance, you can now block anyone individually, or everyone, on your friends list from seeing photos that you’ve been tagged in. Of course, this really only prevents people from being alerted that “Chris was tagged” in so-and-so’s photo or seeing that photo from your profile. Still, that’s better than the way it used to be, where you’d get the alert along with all your friends and you’d have to rush in to see if the picture is humiliating, only to see that a bunch of your friends have already seen it and left a comment or two. Nice. Keep in mind that if you share a friend with someone else that has made their photos available, then your mutual friend will still likely see you, no matter if you’ve been tagged or not. I like most of what Facebook has to offer, but I really dislike the photo stuff. It’s part of a dystopian-nightmare-turned-reality in which you have no real privacy and everyone’s digital camera becomes the all-seeing eye from which you cannot hide.

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