“Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.”
- Benjamin Franklin, statesman
Facebook gives users the illusion of privacy. You get to choose your friends and have the ability to regulate your content. Some people can see this. Others can see that.
But regardless of how you direct traffic on Facebook remember this:
There are no secrets on Facebook.
Because Facebook only gives the illusion of privacy. When you are sharing your life with people on a social network, you are sharing your life with everyone.
Think of content as water. It flows quickly and easily into holes and cracks. Ask any dam operator about the ability to contain water permanently. It isn’t possible. Water spills and water overflows.
Content is the same way. And Facebook, like every social network out there, has lots of holes and cracks. And many of these leaks to do with the mathematics that Benjamin Franklin notes in his quote above. Secrets and crowds – no matter how small and intimate – simply don’t work. When you tell a few people a secret – many more end up knowing it.
There are plenty of examples of how Facebook and privacy don’t mix. Two cases have made headlines recently. One involved a Boston Bruins goalie and the other a 15-year-old girl from North Carolina.
All-star goalie Tim Thomas made headlines last month when he refused to accompany his team to visit President Obama. The event was part of a NHL PR swing where the Stanley Cup winning team gets to press flesh with the president. So Thomas was already turning heads when last week he began to post right-wing political opinions on his Facebook page.
This, of course, has the media clamoring for a response. However, Thomas has refused to answer any questions about his politics or why he has decided to start pushing his political views on Facebook. Thomas has repeatedly said his political views are private and doesn’t want to discuss them in public.
Thomas, like many others, mistakes Facebook as a private forum. It isn’t. And in Thomas’ case it is even worse because he doesn’t have a “private” page, but a public one (with more than 16,000 fans). Anyone going to the goalie’s page can see everything he’s written, so there’s a real disconnect on his perceptions of his Facebook content.
The case of the 15-year-old girl from North Carolina is cringe worthy. She shared a rather profane rant about her parents and chores with her Facebook friends. Her father discovered it and produced a video response (where he fires six bullets into her laptop computer) that he posted on her Facebook wall.
The story went viral (as of this posting the father’s video has 21 million views on YouTube).
Clearly, the father has some severe anger issues. However, the problem stemmed from a misunderstanding the daughter had about Facebook. She believed that her rant would be private – only to be read by her friends. Now, of course, it has become global news.
It’s those damn leaks again.
Facebook – and all other social networks – are public forums. Secrets and privacy are checked at the gate.
Remember that before you post.
Boston Globe piece on Tim Thomas and Facebook
Mashable story on dad shooting daughter’s computer over Facebook post