Social networking and privacy do not go hand-in-hand. After all, the key to a good social networking experience is sharing, and the key to good sharing is...lack of discrimination.
But what if you're not a social butterfly, a broadcaster, or someone with a deep desire to be Internet famous? What if you want to use social media to share photos, videos, and status updates with your family and close friends--but not with the entire world? The good news is that you can still use social networks, even major ones such as Facebook and Twitter. You just have to be careful. And if you'd rather not wrestle with Facebook's privacy settings, you can check out some ultra-exclusive social networks that really value your privacy.
If you read the news at all, you probably think that Facebook is antiprivacy. Critics say the social network has complicated privacy settings and that CEO Mark Zuckerberg has a lax view of privacy in general. But if you're a private person who wants to share with friends and family, Facebook is the best major social network for you. Facebook operates on the friend-request model, which means that prospective friends must receive your approval one by one (unlike Twitter followers) before entering your neighborhood of Facebook.
Facebook's privacy and security settings are complex, to say the least, and you can spend hours tweaking and perfecting them. But if you're strapped for time, you should pay particular attention to a few key settings.
Facebook has a feature that allows you to limit past posts, quickly protecting all of your posts on a Facebook account that's currently open to the public, in just one click. To do this, go to Settings > Privacy Settings > Who can see my stuff? and click Limit Past Posts. This feature limits the visibility of past posts to your Facebook friends only (though friends of people who are tagged in the posts may be able to see some of them), thus effectively locking down your timeline from public view. You can't undo the decision to limit past posts, but think about it: Will you ever want your four-year-old status updates to become public?
If you're concerned about what's public on your Facebook profile and what's not, you'll find Facebook's View As feature extremely useful. To find this feature, click the Security Shortcuts button (its icon looks like a lock with three lines to its right) in the upper right corner of the screen; and in the resulting drop-down menu, click Who can see my stuff? Then click View As to see what your profile looks like to the public (you can also view your profile as a specific person). This will help you get a sense of how much of your Facebook content a stranger can see: your profile pictures, cover photos, and various modules such as the Like module. You can hide most modules by hovering over the upper right corner of the module and clicking Edit or Remove, but your main profile picture and your cover photos will always be visible.
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