There is NO such thing as ‘Privacy’ on Facebook:

If you seriously believe that anything you put on Facebook is private, you’re living on a different planet.  Facebook and any other form of social media communication and even e-mails are not private.  Just ask all those CEOs whose e-mails have been subpoenaed for court cases or the teens who threatened to harm someone at school – their computers were seized.  (Or their cell phones! Watch those text messages.)  You may not be doing anything criminal, but you’re leaving a trail that may affect you for a very long time.

Privacy settings are a joke.  Anything you think is private can be copied, pasted, and shared with the world.  Yeah, I am seriously suggesting that you don’t trust any system on the Internet or the people with whom you are communicating with to keep your words or photos private.  In other words, be careful, very careful.  You post it, it’s public.  Period!

Many thanks to the many teens who shared their Facebook nightmare stories with me.  I invite you to share your stories with me too.


1. post things in anger or frustration.

Don’t ditz people, call them names, or use obscenities toward another person.  Sarah told me that after she broke up with her boyfriend, he posted nasty things about her on Facebook.  He called her a b-tch and some of his friends commented on his remarks, noting that she was a whore, among other things.  Sarah was so upset that she had a full-blown panic attack, including rapid breathing, a racing heart, and she said her hands went numb.  Her girlfriends were seconds away from calling 911, but managed to calm her down.  What ever happened to ‘Do onto others as you would want done to you?’

2. post embarrassing photographs of anyone.

This is a common example that I heard from several young adults – friends were drunk or doing drugs and someone photographed it.  You need to know that if you’re participating in underage drinking or illegal drug use, there is a chance that one of your so-called friends might photograph you with their cell phone camera.  He may not even think that it’s a big deal, that it’s actually funny! A nineteen-year-old girl explained that a friend of hers flashed her chest to some guys after a drinking binge.  One of the guys posted it on Facebook and the girl was deeply embarrassed by her actions.  Since she didn’t post the photo, she couldn’t remove it.  Finally, she convinced the guy to take it down, but not before his friends got a good look at her D cup.  Do you want your potential employers seeing this?  Friends?  Family?  Teachers?  Clergy?  It’s even possible that your photo will get used without your permission on other sites, and you may not even know it!  What started as a so-called joke can be turned into a personal nightmare.  Totally not cool!

3. post information that you don’t want revealed to world.

Tal told me about two – yes – two friends of hers that put on their status that they are gay.  Neither one of these young men had told their parents or their siblings.  Neither guy had friended their family members, so they thought that the information was private.  Hah!  Not at all shocking to find out that through the grapevine the information was leaked and the parents learned this important news by one of the friends.  What hurt the families the most was not that they found out that their sons/brothers were gay, but that everyone else knew about it before them.

4. share your deepest secrets in an IM on Facebook or any other written form of communication.

This type of correspondence can be copied and shared.  You have something you need to confess, then communicate in person or over the telephone.  Beth told her so-called best friend, Lacy, about her first sexual experience.  Lacy thought Beth’s description was humorous and shared it with her friends in her sorority.  Beth found out and needless to say, Beth and Lacy are no longer speaking to each other.  Lacy later told me that she wished that she had thought about it first, but didn’t.  If she had, she never would have showed Beth’s IM to others.

5. announce major life events before sharing them with the most important people in your life.

Danny told me that a friend announced that she accepted a spot at a university without telling her immediate family, including her parents.  Imagine their surprise when people started offering their congratulations via e-mail and IM.  The senior was so excited that she posted it on Facebook, but neglected to share the information with some of the most important people in her life.  Needless to say, they were a little upset that “they were the last to know.”  This rule also can be applied for happy news such as engagements, births etc.  Because social networking is instantaneous information, tell the people who are important to you first and ask others to wait a few hours before announcing the news to the world.  That way you can have the opportunity to share the good news with the people who are most important to you.

6. break up with someone, or quit a job or team via Facebook.

Have the guts to communicate directly with the individual, instead of using Facebook, e-mail, or texting as a means of getting out of a relationship, job, or team.  It’s so totally not okay.  At the very least, pick up the phone and have the guts to be honest with the other person/people involved.

7.  push the publish or send button until you double check who will be receiving the message.

Have you accidently sent a note on Facebook to the wrong person?  It happens every day!  Randi told me that she had this situation happen via text messaging.  A friend sent her a scathing text, which was extremely hurtful.  In the message she was called all sorts of names and said that she couldn’t be trusted.  It turned out that the text was intended for the girl’s boyfriend and not Randi.  In the end the girl was relieved and grateful that Randi saw it, and not her boyfriend because an hour later she felt differently about the situation.  As my other half says, “Let cooler heads prevail!”

Facebook and other social networking systems are fabulous ways to communicate instantaneously.  I love reconnecting with people I haven’t seen in ages and staying in touch with family and friends.  But with it comes tremendous responsibility.  Don’t let it be a substitute for face-to-face communication, especially for the important matters in life.  We need to talk through issues, be honest and direct.  Somehow, we’ve diminished this form of connecting with others.  Don’t let it become a way to embarrass or to hurt others.  Most importantly, never forget that the only way to guarantee that something remains private is not to share it!

Check out this powerful YouTube video that clearly illustrates how posting photographs on Facebook are never private:


About Liza Wiemer:

Liza has a blog for YA/teens at www.whoRuBlog.com.  She is an award-winning educator, parent of two teen boys, and author of several adult non-fiction books.  She is currently working on several YA novels.  You can follow Liza on Twitter http://twitter.com/LizaWiemer or Goodreads http://www.goodreads.com/author/show/433276.Liza_Wiemer

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16 Comments + Add Comment

  • I try to be very careful with my online activities. I look at it as being a bulletin board in a public square where anyone in the world can see it. Nice, wonderful people to the biggest creeper. By thinking along these terms I don’t post my children or anything personal on them. It’s a good check for me.

  • I totally agree. Everything’s on my facebook. But that’s because I’m an open book. I have like 2 things I consider secret, and other than that, I don’t care who knows what. Also, I’m not the name-calling type anyhow, so I don’t have that problem.

    By the same token, whatever I’m doing it’s okay for whoever to see- with the exception of intimate stuff with significant other. A friend told me of a case where a guy was on probation for DUI, and not supposed to drink. He told his probation officer that he was going to a family event. But he was tagged at a football game with a beer in his hand.

    We’re not in Kansas anymore.

  • Hi Maggie,
    You’re absolutely right…there is no privacy with facebook or any other social media website. In reality there is no privacy when you enter the world of the internet. Your footprints are left everywhere you travel. I’m the father of 3 wonderful boys and I describe it to them as it is…a life advertising time suck. I think the disconnect with these sites comes when parents don’t teach their kids the long term affects of posting stuff that could be used against them…colleges, jobs etc.

    Have an inspirational day!

  • Maggie,
    Thanks for your post. What great reminders! I’m always talking with my personal children, my students — and even my mom — about being careful in our digital world. I talk with my students often about not using location information in their blog posts. This can include school name or places you frequently visit (especially if specific to an area). On Facebook photos can reveal location information as well. There is a lot to think about. I’m always reminded of this when I meet up with old friends and they start discussing all they know about what I’ve been up to from reading my Facebook page. It’s easy to forget so thanks for the reminder.


  • This is one reason I write under the alias “Kevin Andrews.” My Fb account, Twitter account, and even my blog are all registered to “Kevin,” who, incidentally, even has his own e-mail at GMX. Of course, there are a few chinks in this armor: all of my friends on Fb are actually friends and know my true identity; my LinkedIn account is under my own name (for obvious professional reasons) so any updates posted by Kevin to LinkedIn are clearly identified with me.

    The fact that I post under an alias should also give one pause. How many others out there are using aliases? (My DW for one!) So, it is important to ensure that you really know with whom you are connecting via these social networking sites as well.

    Obviously, due to my alias, it is extremely rare for me to receive a friend request, so I give much thought to whomever I do add and generally personally invite those people. I ensure that they know who I am by including a personal note with the request explaining my identity and sharing something that only a friend or acquaintance could know.

    Please note, I don’t recommend that everyone have an alias–that would be terribly confusing–but I definitely agree that one needs to be very conscious of what they post. I should also note here that use of an alias does not afford one absolute anonymity. Beyond the fact that eventually somebody, somewhere will know your true identity, there is the business of meta-data through which any type of nefarious activity may always be traced back to an originating source.

  • “As a married man, let me tell you that things are so much better now, in my opinion. It’s better for everyone and we have better values now than in the past. Men and women are more free to find their own liberty and happiness now, which may be more difficult than having an easy system where you don’t have to think as much and just accept your role, but it’s worth it.”

  • [...] Here’s a resource for teaching your students about privacy settings and disclosing personal information on the internet through social networking sites.  This lesson focuses on Facebook, but good advice for the internet in general.  http://classroomtalk.com/?p=318 [...]

  • Great post!!! All very true. Maybe the only good thing to come from all this is that folks just may begin to clean up their lives a bit, you think? I am appalled at some of the things young people do today. It’s sad.

  • One more issue is that video games can be serious in nature with the primary focus on finding out rather than fun. Although, there’s an entertainment part to keep the kids engaged, each and every game is usually designed to work on a specific set of skills or area, such as instructional math or research. Thanks for your post.

  • Taking your kids camping can be a great way to enjoy family time – your kids will love it

  • Great article and information. I’ve shared it through my social media outlets–thanks!

    I think one of the biggest issues is in general we parents are ‘Digital Immigrants” and our children are ‘Digital Natives.’ As such, we are attempting to help our children through a world with which we are mostly unfamiliar. This is not were parents are comfortable, human nature it to avoid that which is not comfortable.

    In the free workshops I conduct as a Certified Child & Internet Safety Advocate, we strive to better education parent (and teens) about the dangers that accompany the advantages of the cyber- and mobile-worlds.

    We also stress the importance of finding technology the enable and empowers the parents, while also protecting the child. In short, using technology to buttress our technological shortcomings.

    Again, thanks for posting this great article!

  • Be careful about breaking up with someone in person. Social media may be “rude” but getting your face punched in by an abusive, angry boyfriend that you thought “deserved to be told in person” is worse.

    At the very least, when you go to personally break up with someone, make sure someone ELSE knows where you are, how long you expect to be gone, or is NEARBY in case you need a quick escape or help.

    Been there, done that, NOT doing it again.

  • I’m extremely impressed with your writing skills and also with the layout on your weblog. Is this a paid theme or did you modify it yourself? Either way keep up the excellent quality writing, it is rare to see a great blog like this one today..

  • You definitely know how to bring an issue to light and make it important. I cant believe youre not more popular because you definitely have the gift.

  • I recently came across your article and have been reading along. I want to express my admiration of your writing skill and ability to make readers read from the beginning to the end. I would like to read newer posts and to share my thoughts with you.

  • I agree with this one. There is no such thing as privacy on Facebook. Everyone should be responsible with what they are posting on Facebook. As much as possible, people should refrain from posting personal information such as contact info and address, or posting offensive remarks and photos. I have heard that some companies check a person’s Facebook profile and there were instances when some weren’t hired because these persons were not acting professionally online.

    Effective Communication

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