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How to use Facebook's Graph Search (and why you would even want to)

Caitlin McGarry | July 16, 2013
Facebook's Graph Search—the social network's so-called third pillar—rolled out to all American users last week.

Facebook is also pushing Graph Search as a way to meet new people—you can search for people in your city in a specific age range with certain interests—but most of us use Facebook to connect with people we already know. Would you accept a friend request from a stranger just because you happen to live in the same city and you both like to ride bikes?

Graph Search is still in beta, and Facebook has indicated that the product will change over the years. If the results improve, Facebook's search could become a powerful engine. Graph Search isn't yet available for mobile, a slight that doesn't really fit in with Facebook's smartphone thrust. Every feature should be designed with mobile in mind.

Privacy settings: Pay attention
As is usually the case with Facebook, privacy concerns with Graph Search are huge. The engine dives deeply into the information you've posted on Facebook over the years. It also pulls from photos your friends have tagged you in and status updates that mention you: basically, anything that has your name on it is fair game in Graph Search's crawl. There's no opting out.

You're going to want to drop what you're doing right now and open up your Facebook privacy settings. Under "who can see my stuff?" is your activity log. Here we go: Start looking at what you've posted, posts you're tagged in, photos, likes, comments, and more. If you don't like what you see, start deleting.

Do a couple of test runs in the new search bar to see what information Graph Search finds about you. Unflattering five-year-old photos you hid from your timeline but didn't untag? Yeah, Graph Search finds those. Untag, untag, and untag some more.

Clean up your likes, too. If you once gave the thumbs up to a controversial political cause or an embarrassing musician, Graph Search will find it. Do you really want to turn up in a search result for "friends of my friends who like One Direction?" Do you?!

Graph Search's potential to humiliate users is a bit unsettling, even though everyone offers up information willingly. We never expected our lives to become searchable, our friendships to become data points. But, like all Facebook changes, Graph Search is here to stay. Get used to it, or delete your account for two days to protest and reactivate when you miss wasting hours searching for "friends of my friends who live in Paris." (I'm a little bitter at how many results this search turned up, by the way.)

 

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