Facebook Hoaxes – Tempting But Pointless

“A lie gets halfway around the world before
the truth has a chance to get its pants on.”
– Winston Churchill

Let’s say one thing upfront: Facebook is not (and should not) be known for their interest in protecting your personal information. While it does offer a handful of tools, and finding the privacy setting you need is not the most intuitive.


facebook hoaxBut it’s that very confusion that makes us so receptive when a Friend voices a concern and gives you a specific set of instructions in order to overcome FB’s evil secret strategy to trick you into sharing details of your personal life with the public.

When your friend posts a warning about something, it’s most often something they diligently copy/pasted in a post, as they were instructed to do when they first viewed the warning from one of their friends.  Then you post it to your friends, and soon millions of FB users are aware of the issue, thanks in part to you – and you feel good about yourself. The problem is, the warning is bogus.


Most often, these posts don’t include links or promotion of a page, web site, or company, and no reference to Russian brides or Nigerian royalty. There’s nothing to indicate that the post is anything other than your friend conscientiously managing their privacy, and helping you to do the same.

But look again. Some signs that the post is bogus include:

  • The post is not written using the ‘normal’ language of your friend – this suggests they copy/pasted it (though likely not trying to be sneaky).
  • The post includes a warning – this urges us to read all the way through.
  • The post instructs us to somehow act upon the warning – this could be a prompt for a ‘like’ or repost, an adjustment to your settings, etc.
  • Instructions to ‘share this with as many people as possible’ – This one’s the real ‘gotcha’, and the biggest sign that the message is a hoax.

One more way to unveil a hoax is to copy a sentence of the post and do a search on Google (surround your snippet with quotes in order to find the exact phrase). Your results may lead you to a number of hoax-busting sites where you can discover the full story.

We will continue to be lured in by these tempting posts, and when we discover that we were tricked, we’ll kick ourselves for not knowing better.  And then we’ll get suckered again… Just try to find solace in the fact that you’re doing your best to be diligent AND that you’re not the only sucker!



Facebook Lets The World ‘Subscribe’ To Your Profile

Facebook ChangesIf there’s one thing consistent about Facebook, it’s change. And every change has people clamoring about, panting, and sweating. The experts rush to explain it, screaming phrases like “game changer” and “major, major change!” Average users who pay attention start to panic, wondering how deeply Facebook is allowing people to invade their privacy.

And the rest of the kajillions of Facebook users continue blissfully along, possibly noticing the change, using it if it helps them, ignoring it if it doesn’t.

In times like these it’s appropriate to remind folks of on of the main tenets of Selective Social Media – share selectively.  That part hasn’t changed, and sticking to that practice will help you weather the inevitable changes in social media platforms, whether you really understand them or not.

So, what’s the current Facebook fuss? It’s the new option that gives users the option to let people subscribe (via the ‘Subscribe’ button) to your personal profile updates without the bilaterally approved ‘friend’ relationship. TechCrunch describes it well:

Here’s how it works. As you browse around the site, you’ll notice that some users have a button at the top of their profile that says ‘Subscribe’. Click it, and you’ll start seeing that user’s status updates in your News Feed, just as if you were their Facebook friend. But there’s a big difference: unlike normal Facebook friends, the people you subscribe to don’t have to approve your subscription request, and there’s no limit on how many people can subscribe to any given user.

This new update doesn’t automatically share anything that you’re not sharing already, but if you’d like to let people read your Facebook updates without having to ‘friend’ them, this option is for you. The person this feature may be ideal for is a celebrity, politician, or otherwise public figure who would rather share as a profile than a page.

If you want to let people subscribe to you, you must first allow subscribers (currently via the subscriptions icon in the upper left column on the profile page. Once enabled, random people click on a subscribe button on your profile to follow your updates. Facebook says subscribers can see only the things you share publicly, that is, the posts that use the public privacy setting. That’s the same stuff the non-friend public could always see, only now they have the option to subscribe to that content and see your public updates in their News Feed.

facebook subscribe

There are additional options to select when enabling the SUBSCRIBE button.


So should I enable that devilish Subscribe button on my profile?

If you generally use the ‘everyone’ setting for your updates, then this is no big deal. You’re already making that content visible to non-friends, and allowing them to subscribe just sends this same information to their newsfeed. If this level of sharing is your objective, you may want to consider using a page rather that your profile for engaging the public community. On the other hand, if you prefer to keep the lid on your profile, only sharing updates with people you know personally, there’s no reason to enable that button.

Facebook And WikiLeaks In The Same Category?

Today Fox News ran an article titled, Which Is Worse, WikiLeaks or Facebook? It presented the idea that both can be a threat to privacy, legally or otherwise.

I won’t get into the merits of either side of the argument, even if I could – there are so many facets to the multiple and complex issues.  But the question highlights the absolute power of the internet to support amazing and powerful functionality, as well as the darker side of the potential for, and consequences of misuse of that information.

The issue is a good reminder of what we all should keep in mind when using the internet: NOTHING IS TRULY PRIVATE! With developers racing to make information sharing easier and faster, that reminder is more important than ever. Continue reading

Just Say ‘Not Now’ To Facebook Friend Requests

Techcrunch reported a small update added by Facebook to that allows non-friends to follow you.

Giving you every chance to change your mind about not making a connection, Facebook now gives you two options to deal with friend invitations.  You can select either ‘Confirm’ or ‘Not Now’, but ‘Deny’ or ‘Ignore’ are not options.

Selecting ‘Not Now’ moves the invitation to a limbo category that allows those people to still follow your updates in their newsfeed – at least updates tagged ‘Everyone’.  Denying a request tagged ‘not now’ involves several steps – account/edit friends/show hidden requests.  Clicking on “don’t know (the person)” after Not Now will prevent them from submitting another request.

So this will be a nice feature if you want people to subscribe to you but want to stop short of establishing a two-way relationship.  If you have privacy concerns, remember to tag your posts with the level of visibility you want.