When you get a Facebook message that starts with “I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you…” you should know that the instructions that follow are pure nonsense. Don’t do it when it tells you to find your Friend settings and “REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS” By unchecking those boxes all you’ve done is cut yourself off from receiving your friend’s photos, comments and likes. It has NO bearing on who else can see their posts, but it is a worthy lesson in how Facebook privacy works. Read on and I will explain what is going on as well as tell you the right way to stay PRIVATELY connected – it’s a lot easier than removing checkmarks on all your Friends’ settings!
Understanding Who Can See What
What your friend needs to do to “stay privately connected” is to set their Audience Selector to just Friends or a specific Friend list. Each time you post something in Facebook, you have the option of changing the ‘Visibility’ of what you post, choosing Friends means it is visible to only Friends, choosing Public means it is visible to anyone, choosing a list like ‘High School Friends’ limits the visibility to just the members of that list. You can also change it after the fact. Geeks on Tour members can view the video: Facebook Privacy to learn more about the Audience Selector.
Check it Out
Go to Facebook right now and take a look at the posts in your Newsfeed/Home page. For each and every one, you can tell who can see it by looking at the little icon at the bottom of the post, before any comments. If you see the circular globe icon then you know that the Public … anyone … can view that post. If you see the icon of ‘Friends’ (two little heads) then this post is visible to just the original poster’s Friends. Now, notice that comments do not have the audience icon next to them. Comments can be seen by whoever can see the original post – no more, no less.
Some Truth in the Hoax
The weird part comes when Facebook shows you any comments that your friends have made on other’s posts. If the post they commented on was a Public post, then it could easily be by someone you don’t know. You’ll wonder, “why in the world am I seeing this post by John King, when I don’t know John King!” You’re seeing it (probably in your ticker on the right of your screen) because a friend of yours commented on John King’s public post. When Facebook shows you your friend’s comments, they’ll show you the original post and all other comments as well so you have the context. I agree that this is weird, it’s like automatic eavesdropping. But the way to stop eavesdropping is to talk on a private connection, not to broadcast publicly and simply ask the eavesdroppers to stay away!
The Real Solution
If John King doesn’t want his post being seen by non-friends like you, the solution is NOT to ask all his friends to unsubscribe to his comments! The solution is for John King (and all of us) to post to Friends only. Facebook will not show you your friend’s comment if it was on a post that is visible to only John King’s friends. Remember? A comment has the same visibility as the post. If the post is shared with Friends only, then the comments can only be shared with Friends of the original poster. If you “WANT TO STAY PRIVATELY CONNECTED ….” then use the privacy setting of Friends only. You should see the 2 little heads on all of your posts – . or a star icon that represents Close Friends or other list . You should not see the icon for Public: or the icon for Friends of Friends
You can even ask Facebook to change ALL your past posts to be shared with only Friends, regardless of how you set it when you posted. Just go to your privacy settings and use the ‘Limit the Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline.’ I used to post generally to Public, after all, I’m saying much of the same things on Facebook that I readily write on my public Blog?! But, I’ve changed my mind now. The purpose of Facebook, for me, is to communicate with my friends. There is simply no reason for my communication to be seen by others. So I have taken advantage of the feature to change all my old posts to Friends only.
Details of the Hoax
As with most Hoaxes, this one has been around a while and just gets recycled with different words. When I first noticed it last summer, it started with the telltale words, “PLEASE DO ME A FAVOR …” then it proceeded to instruct you to UNsubscribe to comments and likes. The language has now been updated to adapt to new language and procedures in Facebook. Here is the complete message:
Hello, my FB friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family that I don’t want strangers to have access to!! However, with the recent changes in FB, the "public" can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits "like" or "comment" ~ automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we can not change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way. PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on “FRIENDS" (also without clicking), then down to "Settings", click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS". By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public. Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same.
“the "public" can now see activities in ANY wall”
Absolutely not true. If you post to "only friends" – then only friends can see it, period.
“REMOVE the CHECK on "COMMENTS & LIKE" and also "PHOTOS". By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public.”
Not true. If I uncheck comments and photos from your name, all it means is that I will no longer receive your photos or comments in my Timeline or Ticker. If the original post had the visibility of Public, it will still be visible by the Public. The solution is to simply change the Audience Selector to Friends.
What is happening here is the writer of this “I WANT TO STAY PRIVATELY CONNECTED …” message is confusing what CAN be seen, with what WILL be seen. They may have been using the Public visibility all along, so anyone COULD have seen what they wrote, but they didn’t because they would need to visit the poster’s Timeline, something we don’t do very often. Since Facebook started delivering our Friends’ comments, we are seeing content that we never looked at before. We could have seen it before, but we didn’t. It’s true that we can’t stop the fact that Facebook is delivering this content – unless EVERYONE unchecks the subscribe to comments feature on ALL of their Friends – but, it’s clear that the way to protect our own content is to make it private to just our Friends, or to a specific list of Friends. If you have a lot of friends, you may want to limit many of your posts to just your Close Friends for example. See member video on Facebook Friend Lists.
And, if you don’t believe me, check out these other articles on this topic: