Maintaining Facebook Privacy

“Social media” probably didn’t mean anything to you two years ago, but now even your mom has a Facebook page. Social networking websites have become the main way many people stay in touch, but for each online friend there are 10 other people you definitely don’t want viewing your contact info, relationships or those racy photos from your Christmas party. Here are three simple ways to take advantage of Facebook’s privacy settings and make sure what you post doesn’t come back to bite you in the butt.

1) Hide the digits. Do you really want your cell phone number, private e-mail and last employers visible to every single person you friend? The key is Facebook’s Privacy Settings menu: Click on the “Settings” tab, then “Manage Privacy.” To stash your info, hit “Contact Information,” and from here you can control who sees your e-mail addresses, phone numbers, IM name and more. To make something completely invisible, click “Customize” and then “Only me.”

2) Trigger stealth mode. The first question all of my teacher friends ask me about Facebook is, "How do I make it so my students can’t find me?” To remove yourself from search listings, from the Privacy Settings menu, click on “Search” and then set Facebook Search Results to “Only Friends.” Anyone who isn’t already on your friend list won’t find any results for you when they run searches—it puts you in control of who reaches out to you.

3) Use friend lists to avoid photo backlash. You’re obviously smart enough not to post incriminating photos, but you can’t control what your crazy friends do! By default, if you’re tagged in a friend’s photo, that picture could appear in mutual friends’ News Feeds; to avoid this, take advantage of Facebook’s friend lists feature, which lets you split friends into separate groups and then control who sees what. Click on the “Friends” tab, then “Friend Lists” along the left side, and then “Create New List.” Divide your friends into broad categories, like “Family,” “Good Friends,” “Work Buddies,” etc. Then from the Privacy Settings menu, click on “Profile Information,” and then next to “Photos and Videos of Me” click on “Customize.” Now you can set it so that anyone you know from work won’t get an accidental look at your girls’ night out, or that only the friends in your VIP Photo group will see when you’re tagged in a photo. You can also use these groups to control who can view your own photo albums (in the “Profile Information” menu, click the edit button next to “Photo Albums”).

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