As I was writing the previous post (Privacy on the Internet) it got me thinking about how I approach posting things online. I have a ton of stuff online about myself and am easily findable with a quick Google search. (At the moment 6/10 (without middle initial) and 8/10 (with) of the first page of results are about me.
Even though I’m all over the place, I’m still taking advantage of privacy controls, and I’m trying not to post things that I think could cause me trouble down the line. (There was an exception to that rule for several months.) But I’m finding it increasingly difficult to balance the desire to be out there, making myself findable and accessible, with the desire to control who can see the details.
While my Facebook profile is pretty well closed up, most of what I post to Flickr is completely public, and my blog is (obviously) public. So how much good does locking up my Facebook profile do? (I should note that my profile does not include my phone number or address.) With a quick perusal of my blog & photostream, you could get basically the same information about me that you’d see on my Facebook profile. (And let’s not even talk about the perennial Facebook problem of friending people that you’re not really even friends with. I use Facebook to keep up with people I know and like in real life. For a while I thought it might be a tool to rekindle some old college friendships, but that’s not so much the case. So, if I never see you and we don’t even interact online, I don’t want my newsfeed cluttered up with info about you. The “more and less info” controls only do so much.)
And this doesn’t even get into the flip side of the coin — you can control what you put online about yourself, and who can see it, but how much control do you have over what other people post? For example, I feel obligated to friend people on Facebook when I have posted photos that include them — it’s only fair. (And that, naturally, only exacerbates the problem above.)
Lately I’ve been thinking about changing how I post to Flickr by marking anything with a person in it as “friends & family only.” (I’m doing this to a small extent now, with photos where people are a bit on the tipsy side and doing something silly, and more recently with photos of tiny cousins.) But I know for a fact there are people who visit my photostream who don’t have a desire to be on Flickr, even if it’s just to get access to my photos. They’re taking advantage of the fact that pretty much everything I post is wide open.
So, how do I balance the inclination to let my far-away friends and family see what I’m up to, with my increasing desire to be a bit more mindful of what I’m posting for public view? Do I want to force my Mom to have to log in to Flickr to see what I’m up to? How carefully do I want to curate my photostream? And do I go back and change the privacy setting on photos that have been up for as long as three years? (After all, once something is out on the web, you can’t really take it back.)
Even so, more and more I’m leaning towards doing it. I tag all of my photos pretty well, and so it’s easy as pie for someone to visit my photostream and see every photo I’ve ever posted of a particular friend. Plus, since I tag my photos that means that they attract people who wouldn’t normally be looking at my photostream — witness the string of favorites and comments on photos of Ravens fans at the Mayor’s Christmas Parade. Do I need/want those people looking at random photos of weddings and parties I’ve been to? On the one hand, you can argue that they probably don’t care that much. But on the other hand, is it a bad thing to be a little more careful?
What do you think? (I especially direct this question at those of you who make frequent appearances in my photostream.)