I think I've lost this battle...
August 13, 2009 6:39 PM   Subscribe

OK, I give up - I suppose it's time I joined Facebook... but how do I minimise the damage?

After numerous discussions with friends and family about how much I dislike Facebook, and warning them of some of the worst behaviour by Facebook (many since canned due to public outcry), I think I'm about ready to give in and create an account.

I'm blessed/cursed with a rare surname which will make plausible deniability of anything posted (or tagged) impossible and hence I'd like to be as paranoid as possible about minimising leakage of information, to Facebook, to advertisers, and to non-friends.

Can anyone recommend a good guide to setting up an account with the privacy turned all the way up to 11? Can mefites offer any tips and help from their own experiences, including consequences of different settings (you can turn X off, but you won't be able to do Y, etc)

Bear in mind I have zero experience with the Facebook environment at the moment, so I apologise in advance if I start asking for clarifications on what should be blindingly obvious stuff...
posted by Nice Guy Mike to Computers & Internet (39 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
Don't post anything.
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 6:47 PM on August 13, 2009 [2 favorites]

Facebook gives you pretty good control over who can see what part of your profile, and who can find you through searching.

I think the 11 setting would be: only allow friends to find you in a search (people you have already added as friends), no public search listing, and only allowing friends to see any of your info. I think (but am not 100% certain) if you set the privacy to most restrictive and didn't add any friends, you would be invisible to everyone.
posted by justkevin at 6:50 PM on August 13, 2009

Here's a starter: http://www.allfacebook.com/2009/02/facebook-privacy/

But I agree with chesty: You don't have to post anything at all, so just post what you want friends to see. It's really no big deal.
posted by crapples at 6:50 PM on August 13, 2009

Although it is against Facebook "rules" create a fictional name. Let your family/friends know what it is.

The downside to this is folks can't just "find" you through a search..you'll need to initiate the contact.

and...the old rule applies, don't post anything online, anywhere, that you would be ashamed of in church, at work, at school, or if your grandmother read it.
posted by HuronBob at 6:53 PM on August 13, 2009


Facebook is as good or as bad as you want to make it.

Tips that have worked for me:

1. Set your notice controls so that Facebook does not send you email alert every time someone who sat behind you in Trigonometry in 1986 becomes a fan of Cheetos.

2. Set your privacy controls so that only the people you want to see your off-color youtube clips from the British TV comedy Peep Show can do so.

3. Ignore all the dumb quizzes being passed around like herpes simplex on a lukewarm Corona. If your friend invites you to discover what Lost character you are, understand that these invites are usually sent automatically and you are not in the slightest being rude for ignoring them.
posted by applemeat at 6:58 PM on August 13, 2009 [8 favorites]

What are you privacy concerns? Put another way, what would you say to casual acquaintances in real life that you wouldn't put on FaceBook? Is where you live a secret? Are you hiding from an ex-wife?

Once you internalize that being on FaceBook is like being at a large party where you know some people and don't know others, you'll know what you can/should post there, and what you shouldn't. FaceBook is just another public face for you, and one that can be quite pleasant and helpful at times. If you're worried about someone seeing it there, simply don't put it there. You can still get all the benefits from FaceBook--casual interaction with friends, idle chat, etc--without turning it into your confessional.
posted by fatbird at 7:01 PM on August 13, 2009

Set up a second account with a made up name and just use it to look for the first account. You can change the amount of access you give the second account and see how their view of your account changes. Then you can see first hand what another user will see as you mess with the security settings until it's locked down however you like. Facebook has options that let you see what your account looks like to other users but I dont trust it and it doesn't always work as well as I'd like, using another account means you can be 100% sure.

Also don't join any networks, they seem to have access granted in all kinds of weird places. If you're not looking to find people you won't need it anyway. In fact don't feel obliged to add any information anywhere in there you don't want to, nothing is complusory. Sometimes people don't get that, they see all these options and think they have to choose stuff for them.
posted by shelleycat at 7:01 PM on August 13, 2009

You don't have to accept someone's friend request just because they've sent you one. They probably won't notice that you never accepted it. Even if they do notice, the people who you don't accept probably won't be too offended that you didn't accept them (since they're not really your friends).
posted by espire at 7:05 PM on August 13, 2009

- every time you add someone as a friend, add them to a list. Use separate privacy settings for each list, this makes it a lot easier than turning on/off certain posts or whatever for certain people [i.e. work, family, mefi, etc] people do NOT know what list they're on unless they're looking at your facebook over your shoulder. You can set, for example, family to not see photos you post. This is not airtight, but it's a good starter filter
- don't post much, use adblocker to block all ads
- if people post images with you "tagged" in them that you don't like, you can untag yourself. Only truly persistent jerkish people will retag an item [I'm not even sure it's possible]
- use firefox and a few greasemonkey scripts to make facebook palatable. I use facebook auto-colorizer [so it's not always the same color] as well as facebook purity [remove stupid quizzes and other stuff] and a few more that remove ads from facebook. If you see something on facebook that you don't like, you can probably add a greasemonkey script to remove it
- don't let anyone tell you how you HAVE to use facebook [unless your wife is hassling you for not adding her in which case just add her already!] generally speaking it doesn't matter that much
- if someone pokes you you don't need to poke back.
- It can sometimes be nice to use facebook to keep sort of loose track of distant family members and old friends. don't let it become a problem or a hassle for you.
- You can go be friends with me and practice!
posted by jessamyn at 7:09 PM on August 13, 2009 [4 favorites]

Don't use your last name; use only the initial.
posted by pised at 7:11 PM on August 13, 2009

I use Facebook purely for it's basic intended purpose, communicating with friends and family. I'll send messages, post crap I find funny or interesting and comment on those of my friends. I try to avoid politics and religion.

I don't use any applications other than the defaults (and I've removed one or two of those). My rule of thumb: if it asks for permission, the answer is no. This means I don't do any of the stupid quizzes, I don't list my top five CDs I'd like to have on a desert island (like my CD player would work there?) and I don't join my friends Mobs or throw pastries back at them.

I have three Lists: Family, Friends and Work Friends, each with different permissions to see certain parts of my usage. There is some overlap between the membership of these groups and as you'd expect, this gives them the rights of the most permissive group.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:13 PM on August 13, 2009

Response by poster: You'll never guess how I found these.

You found them to be wonderfully useful and that's why you posted them?

Or are you trying to snark by asking how I think you located them, because you didn't actually read the first part of my question? The bit that starts Can anyone recommend... ?
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 7:15 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

Only truly persistent jerkish people will retag an item [I'm not even sure it's possible]

It's not possible- once you've untagged a photo, you cannot be re-tagged in it.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:16 PM on August 13, 2009 [1 favorite]

The wall is public, messages are private. For some reason many new Facebook users write private messages on the wall. The wall is where stuff goes if you view someone's profile and enter things in the textbox. For messages, you want the link on the left under their photo.
posted by smackfu at 7:25 PM on August 13, 2009

If one of your FB friends annoys you for some reason, like sending you awards and drinks or posts those pictures from last year's new years eve party that you'd rather not have your niece or your coworkers see, just "unfriend" them. They'll never know you unfriended them.
posted by tamitang at 7:58 PM on August 13, 2009

You can permanently hide people from your news feed, by clicking the "x" by their name when they first appear (on the feed).

I don't waste nearly as much time as I used to, now that every one of my friends is hidden.
posted by alligatorman at 8:27 PM on August 13, 2009

may I suggest just don't join? It is honestly not for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with not opting in.
posted by edgeways at 8:46 PM on August 13, 2009

my facebook is just my name. that's it. it's so my friends, who are spread out all over the country, can include me in the gossip-mill and party planning.

facebook can be as cut-and-dry as you make it.
posted by pintapicasso at 9:23 PM on August 13, 2009

Or are you trying to snark by asking how I think you located them

If it really bothers you, we can take it to MeTa.
posted by scalefree at 10:04 PM on August 13, 2009

I would really consider avoiding it. There are good things about it...I got in touch with some people from HS, and got some perspective on that, stuff that I'd sort of forgotten about and some good memories.

But once you join, it's really hard to unjoin yourself. Now I have 500 friends, most of whom I can only get in touch with through facebook. It's an amazing waste of time.

Anytime a friend has a picture, the only way you'll get a copy is through facebook. It ends up eating a tremendous amount of time. I guess that's if you are OCD like me. But I'm really trying to stop using it and it's tough.

Anyway, I vote for not using it. If that's an option.

Also I vote for people to stop making snarky googling nastiness. It gets old after a while.
posted by sully75 at 4:26 AM on August 14, 2009

Response by poster: may I suggest just don't join? It is honestly not for everyone, and there is nothing wrong with not opting in.

Anytime a friend has a picture, the only way you'll get a copy is through facebook.

This is basically the position I'm in now, where Facebook has become the standard way of photo-sharing amongst a lot of friends (as opposed to an open- or optionally-open platform like Flickr - but that's another part of this fight I've failed with). Likewise I'm out of the planning loop for some stuff.

I'm well aware that things are not deletable (or very difficult to delete, anyway) hence why I want to be careful when I'm setting stuff up. I know I sound slightly paranoid, and I'll probably open things out a bit once I'm up and running and understand the consequences - I just don't want to wander in, ignorant, and make an uncorrectable mistake.

The comment about only using my last initial is an interesting one, I hadn't considered that tack at all.
posted by Nice Guy Mike at 4:50 AM on August 14, 2009

My tips for making Facebook use more pleasant...

- You will often receive invitations to games like "Farmville" or "Mafia Wars". Look below the text of the invitation and you will see a link that reads "Block This Application". Click that and you'll never hear from it again, regardless of how many people try to invite you.

- Your friends will often post quiz results: "DWRoelands just took the What Vampire Am I Quiz and his result is NOSFERATU". Mouse to the upper-right-side of the column and a drop-down will appear labeled "Hide". Click the dropdown and you will have the option to either hide all posts from that quiz or from that person. Choose the quiz and you'll never see it again.

- Spend your first few days or weeks not posting anything. No photos, no status updates, just lurk and chill and get a feel for how it flows. There's no penalty for lurking.

- You will get "friend invites" from people whom you've spoken with in years or decades. You may ignore them if you choose. To my knowledge, they don't receive a notification that says "DWRoelands refused your friend request!". Should you experience buyer's remorse, you can also "unfriend" someone and I don't believe that Facebook notifies that person.

- If someone tags you in a photo, you get notified. You can remove the tag if you don't want your name associated with the photo. No one can re-tag you in a photo once you've removed yourself. Other people -will- post stupid photos of you if they have them.

I enjoy Facebook because it lets me keep in tune with what my various social circles are doing and I don't have to put forth very much effort at all. I won't say that you'll grow to love it; but I think you will find it to be less similar to dental surgery than you think. :)
posted by DWRoelands at 6:07 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

fifthing the 'dont bother' brigade. I'm at the other end to you, on my way out.

If you are joining, you can quite happily use an email address to join, and then delete the email account later. They'll spot it in about a year, at which case you repeat the process and so on. I've not had a valid email address on there in nearly 3 years. You can use the first one to logon still.

This way you'll never ever be notified by anyone (except for the above) about anything.

The way I think about Facebook and other similar things is "I never needed it before it existed, I dont need it now". That can be applied to many, many things. Its remarkable how that can 'tidy' up your life. I'm thinking of getting rid of my phone next.

My motivation for leaving was that I recently gained a child. A side effect was my 'spare time' reduced to about 2 hours a week. I have to think very carefully about what I spend that time on. Facebook doesnt make the shortlist.
posted by daveyt at 6:20 AM on August 14, 2009 [1 favorite]

The reason I haven't joined is that, in joining, you're basically giving part of your identity (whatever forms in your Facebook page/profile, plus information about what people you're connected to) to a private company with a private company's agenda. Even if the current owners of the company are great people, they could sell the company, or part of the company, to a larger corporation in the future. There's no oversight, regulations, or even formally-understood morals about what that company can and cannot do with that information.

Relevance: keep this in mind when considering your activity and what information you give them.

Personal: the more people join, the harder it is for everyone else to avoid joining -- soon you, too, will be sharing photos through Facebook, and thus ever-so-subtly (maybe unintentionally) pressuring your friends and family to join.

You only hear from the people who have joined -- I'm letting you know that there really are plenty of people who haven't joined.
posted by amtho at 6:22 AM on August 14, 2009

One of the things that I do that makes the whole thing more manageable for me is to at least know how I know people who send me friend requests. I have people from high school (often women with new last names) MetaFilter people (with totally different real life names) and librarians from all over the place (who may know me from my blog). If I get a friend request form someone I don't know, I usually send a polite "Hi I'm not sure how I know you..." note and usually hear back from them and then I can drop them on to the right list. Facebook is really as angsty as you make it, in a lot of ways. You can ignore/block quizzes, applications and even people and still have it have some utility if people you do want to get in touch with are using it.
posted by jessamyn at 6:53 AM on August 14, 2009

Sincerely don't want to hijack, but because I find Facebook's own guides to their privacy settings hard to understand, and because the info might be useful to Nice Guy Mike (whose trepidation about Facebook I share):

Does anyone know if it's possible to have my fundamentalist Aunt not see postings on my wall by my other friends with sensibilities that would offend her? Or do I just have to put her on the No-Wall-Access list, which might also offend her?
posted by Beardman at 7:21 AM on August 14, 2009

Does anyone know if it's possible to have my fundamentalist Aunt not see postings on my wall by my other friends with sensibilities that would offend her?

posted by Sys Rq at 7:35 AM on August 14, 2009

I have an account for my job (no, really!) and the first thing I did was let anyone who tried to friend me know was that this was my work account and it really wasn't going to be very interesting. Most people took that the right way and left me alone. In addition, I used a sketch of myself instead of a photo, so anyone who hasn't seen me in more than a few years won't instantly recognize me. On top of that I pretty much followed the above privacy suggestions, and I'm allowed to be as much of a hermit as I want on facebook.
posted by 1f2frfbf at 7:37 AM on August 14, 2009

i, too, have a rare last name. so rare, in fact, that if you meet another with the same last name, that person is directly related to me. like you, i hate facebook & resisted. i tried several times to set up an account using a fake name. that failed, but for some reason, i was able to do just that about 6 months ago. the fake name is one i was using as a character for a children's book that never got written, so a very few people with very good memories can make the connection between the fake name & my real name. it's not immediately apparent to everyone, though. i 'friended' my brother & got back a 'who is this?' message. i replied with an email detailing a story about his childhood & received a 'who IS this?' message in return. i finally had to send him a 'it's your sister, dumbass' message.

i rarely use it except to send the occasional message & to check on people's travel schedules or whatever. it's entirely possible, though, to stay pretty far under the radar on facebook.
posted by msconduct at 8:00 AM on August 14, 2009

Turn on all the privacy settings. If you google around there are lots of articles on how to lock down your account.

Don't let people write on your wall.

You could also not post anything.

Still, Facebook would know who your friends are.
posted by chunking express at 8:20 AM on August 14, 2009

Also, I signed up with a made up name so people can't just casually look me up. (My account isn't a secret, but it takes a little more effort than simple searching for my name to find.) This is against Facebook's rules, but really, I wouldn't give a fuck if they nuked my account.
posted by chunking express at 8:21 AM on August 14, 2009

Is that your last name in your Metafilter profile???

If so, you manage it the same way you manage it here--by being careful what you say.

I didn't check your comment history. Hopefully you're not asking questions about your secret proclivities for frozen poultry or naked penguin bowling.

If not, you're probably fine.
posted by A Terrible Llama at 8:32 AM on August 14, 2009

Arstechnica just posted an article: Facebook privacy: a guide
posted by danny the boy at 10:42 AM on August 14, 2009 [2 favorites]

Don't post anything on Facebook that you wouldn't want your boss to read. Don't let people tag you in photos (there's a setting for that). If someone writes on your wall and you don't like what they wrote, delete it. Don't "friend" people unless you actually care about them.

Idiots use Facebook like idiots and let their friends post drunken pictures of them wearing a lampshade and a tutu. Don't be an idiot, and you'll be fine.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:52 AM on August 14, 2009

Also, every setting on Facebook has an "only my friends can see it" option. Use that option for EVERYTHING.
posted by Sloop John B at 10:53 AM on August 14, 2009

I have an account, but I never post a damn thing. I periodically log in to accept friend requests or something, but I just plain don't say anything at all of interest there, just in case some employer wants to look me up someday.

I do know of a bunch of Burning Man folks who have kr8tiv alternative names on Facebook so they can post whatever wackiness they want to without it busting them at work. I gather Facebook is a lot more lenient about the fake name stuff these days.
posted by jenfullmoon at 2:57 PM on August 14, 2009

Someone mentioned upthread to turn off all email notifications but I recommend leaving on the direct message one. That way, if someone really wants to get ahold of you, they'll use the mail feature and you'll get notified of that. I mean, that's what you want, not just to spy on people, right. ;)
posted by amanda at 2:36 PM on August 15, 2009

If you're still looking for alternatives, Google Profile is a great way to give yourself a carefully-managed online presence with an e-mail contact form that lets people get ahold of you without just posting your e-mail address.
posted by l33tpolicywonk at 4:22 PM on August 16, 2009

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