My policy: Read but don’t post

Published 6:18 am Friday, May 14, 2010

By Dave Churchill


Although I had been hearing about Facebook for some time, it wasn’t until a year or so ago that a couple of the younger people I work with pulled me aside and said, “Look, you’re in the communication business. You need to know about this.”

So I listened to them talk about Facebook and Twitter. And my first response was, “Why would I want to tell people what I’m thinking from minute to minute? Or what I’m doing? It’s almost always boring and, anyway, it’s no one else’s business.”

This, I learned, is not modern thinking.

So I attempted to get with the times. I got a Facebook account. I got a Twitter account, a LinkedIn account and a MySpace account. I posted some comments and a couple of pictures. I became Facebook friends with people I barely know.

I also started getting messages from Facebook, or some subsystem, asking me to list all my relatives so that I could stay in touch with them. And that made me nervous. Call me paranoid, but I don’t see where putting my family tree into a database that I don’t control ever works out well for me.

So I swore off social media. Wasn’t going to look at the sites. Wasn’t going to post.

But it turns out swearing off social media is a lot easier said than done, especially for someone whose business is knowing and sharing news. So I changed course again. My current policy: Read but don’t post.

This is the same position my grandfather took regarding the telephone. I never knew him to make a phone call, but he would talk if someone else called him. The apples doesn’t fall too far from the tree.

The point of the foregoing is the shock and amazement that some – maybe a lot – of people felt last week when some security glitch made certain Facebook information less private than the posters had hoped.

In this way, social media continue to reflect the real world, where everyone knows that the only way to keep a secret is to tell no one, and the best way to ensure personal news gets spread around is to tell someone – and ask that they tell no one else.

So privacy problems with social media are really an issue of expectations.

Anyone who jumps out there thinking that their comments, photos and information will remain private is doomed to be disappointed. The only safe course is to post nothing that might eventually prove embarrassing.

Everyone has a different tolerance for risk.

Some don’t mind putting their lives out there for public inspection. Others would just as soon keep the few remaining shreds of privacy that our society allows.

But everyone involved ought to at least consider the question of privacy – and recognize that anything that goes on-line is going to be out there for everyone forever.