Building Walls in Facebook

As a college student who has been using Facebook for the past few years, I have noticed a pronounced change in how some of my peers are using the tool: they are becoming wiser with regards to privacy. It’s as if all of the articles about people getting fired and losing job offers have had an effect. But there is another reason why people have started to restrict access to their photos, wall, and other sections of their profile: their audience has changed.

There are, of course, still millions of college students who post anything and everything to their profile, with no qualms about who sees it. Call it negligence, call it expression, it doesn’t matter. What does matter, and what interests me, is the growing group of students who have taken control of their digital identity by using granular security settings; ones that allow you to control who sees what, on a per-person and per-item basis. Potential employers have been prowling Facebook for at least a couple years, so why the change now? It’s simple: they’re out of the shadows.

Before Facebook opened up to anyone, the audience of whatever digital identity you had was visible only as your peers, the people whose faces showed up under your “Friends” box. Now, with adults (that could be offering you a job in the near future) and younger siblings (who can tell mom and dad) joining social networks, the presence of the complete audience is known. The reaction of people to control who sees what is a normal one: we speak differently and of different things with recruiters or professors than with our friends, and the success of a social network that strives to capture users across all ages may hinge on its ability mimic real life walls. By empowering users to control access to different parts of their digital dossier, they can construct settings that represent the different real-life social circles. I want to be connected, not exposed.

– Tony P., Cambridge, MA