I’ve asked this before, but it’s been a while, and a couple of new factors have come into play, so I’ve decided to ask again with those factors in mind.
I don’t have a Facebook account (obviously, from my OP), and am thinking of joining, for two reasons in particular:
It’s the best/most convenient way of keeping up with specific people, particularly a certain friend and my sister (especially as mother of my nephews).
I’ve mentioned this before; I have a relatively unusual name, and the only result on the first page of Google results for it that is NOT me is a Facebook page for someone else with that name — old high school classmates (and possibly someone I’d love to catch up with that I haven’t talked to in over 20 years) think he’s me. Joining would allow me to take some degree of “ownership.”
Now, I’ve heard a LOT about privacy concerns and stuff there coming back to haunt users (in fact, #2 above sort of relates directly). I hear that teenagers are less inclined to use it these days, so that’s a plus. I do not plan to friend anyone I don’t personally know (and sometimes not even then). I plan to put as little personal information on as I can get away with, use filters judiciously, reveal only stuff I wouldn’t mind someone else remembering forever, and not using the account to link to any online games or anything like that. (They want my advertising, they can pay me.)
Anything else I should consider in deciding whether to join, or to do if I do?
Facebook is a decent way to keep in touch with people, post photos, etc. It’s mostly mindless drivel IMO but it may keep you in better touch with friends and family.
When signing up for Facebook give they will want your name, e-mail, general location, and birth date (I think they require birthdate to make sure you’re not under a certain age.) I fudged my birthdate a little, added a year and mis-entered the day. They don’t know your exact birthdate and they don’t need to know. Then stop, don’t enter your mailing address, phone number, anything else they ask for that’s not required. Facebook cannot share or leak anything you do not give it.
Watch out during the signup, Facebook tries to get your e-mail Address Book to add your mail contacts to your friends list. This article is probably out of date but gives you and idea of what to watch out for. So make up a password for Facebook that is different from your e-mail password, and don’t give Facebook your e-mail password.
Add a few friends and you will be able to see what they post (some people post a lot, some none at all.) That’s the basics, and all you’ve given away is your name, e-mail address, and location.
Rule #1: Use a dummy e-mail account. There’s no real concern using your regular e-mail account if you’re careful. But if you’re not entirely careful, you’ll wake up one day and find out that Facebook has access to your contacts, your calendar, etc. And until you’re completely comfortable, don’t download the app for your phone.
Just throwing in my two cents. I agree with your assessment that it is the most convenient way for keeping in touch with people. Not just those from far away or long ago, i’d say that my group of friends and I use Facebook more than anything to communicate, especially regarding parties/happy hours/bicycle rides/pretty much everything else we do together …etc.
Occasionaly i’ll think about leaving Facebook, but its basically how i communicate with everyone in my life (except my parents who aren’t on it), with text messages being a distant second, and actual phone calls an even more distant third.
Regarding privacy concerns, IMHO the only thing you need to worry about is if you’re interviewing for a job and your profile is littered with pictures of you doing keg stands and other nefarious acts. Otherwise, i wouldn’t worry about it.
Facebook helped me out a lot. After a long insulated marriage I was able to reconnect with some very good friends that I had lost contact with. Also other people that were just acquaintances in the past are now good friends. I’m not a daily or even weekly poster but it is a good tool to keep in contact with people.
Seconded, but for a different reason. Other people who have used the “friend finder” (i.e. let Facebook go through their email account for contact info) may have told Facebook to alert them if/when you sign up for an account. If you sign up with the email address Facebook found in their contact info, they will immediately get an alert that you have signed up and Facebook may even automatically send you a friend request from them.
I think this is creepy as hell. If there are people out there that you don’t necessarily want to know that you’re now on Facebook, sign up with a fake email address. And then as soon as you log in to your new account, go through all the privacy settings in detail.
In addition to the other comments here, set your default permission to “Friends” (or “Friends except acquaintances” if you want to tailor permissions that tightly), not “Public”.
I have also set almost everything in my profile to only be viewable by friends. You may want to tailor that a bit if you want people to be able to search for you.
I am not nearly as paranoid as some of my real-life friends, but even I would say that you should never use Facebook for anything where it would cause you serious grief if posted information “escaped” to people you didn’t intend to see it. Given past actions by Facebook I don’t fully trust their permission system and I doubt I ever will.
Whenever Facebook tells you they’ve updated anything, go through all your privacy settings. It hasn’t happened recently, but way in the past (like 4 years ago) one of their updates nuked all my privacy settings back to defaults.
It’s very easy to stay secure on facebook as long as you actually look at all the options they give you and check up on them now and then. I recommend having a friend group just for people you don’t want to see anything at all, even if right now you don’t have anyone you want to put in it. Setting up this now will help you in the future.
Basically, you’ll be doing it right when you friend people you know and tell them things that you’d be telling them anyway. Just put all your privacy settings on “friends only” and then say that anyone can send you a friend invite/message (make sure to go through everything you post on the about page to make sure you set the settings correctly!). The rest of the internet will only see your name, profile picture, cover photo, gender, and area/school network this way (if you added that). Perfect as only the bare minimum requirement for people to find you. Even better, you can submit anything as your profile photo so really all they get is your name and gender.
What this group I mentioned earlier is for, is for the people you “have” to friend (like your nosy aunt who will cause a ruckus if you don’t). What you do is just set your posts to “friends only, except: lockout group” (you can do this under custom security settings in all the security dropdowns). Do this right at the beginning as soon as you sign up. Facebook remembers this setting for all future posts. Make sure to do this for all your interests and apps (say, a goodreads plugin, etc).
Now, when you have someone you “have” to friend, you just stick them in that group. the result is, they don’t see jack from you. You can post all day, but they’ll never know it. Setting this group up from the beginning means that it retroactively does this to all your posts so they can’t see what you’ve done in the past before you two were friends, either. Every now and then you can change a post to include them, but I hardly ever do. Just make sure to change it back since Facebook remembers your choice for next time.
You can also tell Facebook how much you want to see from other people. So, basically, you can be friends with jerkwad relative x without her ever seeing you post and you ever seeing her post. It’s great!
I think Facebook is near to a necessity these days if only because so many of your family and friends rely on it for their primary means of communicating. I have one sister who isn’t on facebook and it’s no shock that she misses a lot of mundane family news (mundane, but good to know). Of course if it’s life or death news, we pick up the phone.
I have my security settings on lockdown. I have shared the bare minimum of information. I post very rarely and very judiciously. I have no problem with facebook but then I’m careful.
The “don’t use real name” thing is interesting, but I’m not sure about it. Not only would it defeat my second OP point, but wouldn’t my identity be kind of deducible from the fact that I’d be connected with a whole bunch of my relatives (who’re all pretty sane, so I’m not concerned about them sending me glurge — well, my uncle might, but if I tell him to stop, I’m pretty sure he’ll listen)?