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Facebook and Google+, as with most social networks, force users to give up their privacy to get more out of the service, but are there any benefits to this loss of anonymity?

Facebook and Tumblr deal with online privacy very differently.  Facebook requires you to use a real name and is designed to connect people.  There is no anonymity on Facebook–it even started as a closed network that required a verified .edu email address to become a member. However, Tumblr doesn’t require any personal information, and allows people to anonymously share pictures, ideas, etc.

In an interview with BloggingHeads, Andrew McLaughlin, VP of Tumblr,  and Marne Levine, VP for Global Public Policy for Facebook, explained how anonymity and transparency effect Tumblr and Facebook.  McLaughlin and Levine provide completely opposing viewpoints on the importance of anonymity.  McLaughlin praises the freedom that comes along with anonymity, while Levine criticizes the lack of comfort and lack of security that stem from anonymity.  While Facebook is a networking tool used to connect people, Tumblr is creativity tool used to share ideas–anonymity has a different role with each.  In Facebook’s case, the lack of anonymity allows users to connect with other users, but since the network has opened up it is nearly impossible to verify identity.  In Tumblr’s case, anonymity allows people to share ideas, but this also makes people less accountable for their ideas and opinions.

Full Video of the interview

Anonymity may allow people to express themselves without consequences, but it also creates a false sense of security.  Anonymity allows people to express themselves without reproach.  Free, anonymous expression makes sense for Tumblr, as it allows users to explore creative interests that they wouldn’t explore without anonymity, but it does not make sense for Facebook, which is meant to be an online extension of real interactions that happen between people.

The real question may be whether this anonymity is truly possible.  If you engage in social media, your information is going to be in their database forever.  Even if you don’t have an account, however, your information may not be as private as you think–everything that you have ever searched on Google is tracked and saved.  If you choose to delete your Google search history, your search history can still internally be used by Google for 18 months.  Nothing that you do online is anonymous, the only question is if you know your anonymity is being violated or not.  Google has agreed to pay a 22.5 million dollar settlement to the FTC for violating users privacy, without their knowledge.

1.  What is visible to the public, to employers, and to potential references? When managing your online identity be aware that whatever is visible on Facebook, Twitter, or any other social media site, must be appropriate for any current or future employer to see.  Just one inappropriate tweet, update, or pinned photo can cause repercussions for your long-term career.  On Facebook you can click “View As” on your main profile page under the “Settings” drop down.

2.  Depending on what your position is, is it may be important to have a presence on certain sites? For seeking communications positions, it is important to show that you are knowledgeable about current social media trends.  Staying up-to-date with online sites can show your ability to manage change.  While it may not be necessary for you to be on Facebook and Twitter and Tumblr and Pinterest, having your presence certainly has its benefits.  LinkedIn is especially useful to recruiters.

3.  What is your online reputation?  Do you have a positive, negative, or neutral presence online? Your online reputation can range from positive to negative and inappropriate.  Be aware of how you come across on the internet.  While having a negative online reputation will certainly work against you, having a neutral presence won’t help you either.  In creating an online identity, be cognizant of how you want to come across to coworkers, future employers, and people you haven’t even met.  Social media allows us to create our own marketable versions of ourselves, take advantage of that.  Create a Google Alert for your name to track what is being said about you online.

4.  How do people interact with you and how do you interact with people online? The people that you interact with on social media sites reflect who you are.  How often you interact with people on these sites also speaks to what kind of person you are.  Social media sites, especially Facebook, but to a lesser extent Twitter, can paint a picture of you as an extrovert, introvert, or somewhere in between.  These sites might pigeonhole you as a social butterfly, or as a shut-in.  If you allow your content to be displayed, make sure that your interactions, and how often you interact, will benefit your image.  Klout is a good way to see an overview of how you interact with others online.

5.  What do you show interest in online? Don’t “like” anything detrimental to your image, and make sure to showcase what makes you unique.  What pages you like on Facebook, whom you follow on Twitter, and what you tweet about all reflect who you are and what your interests are.  Don’t showcase an aspect of yourself that you don’t want other people to know about, but also show what makes you unique.  Facebook privacy settings allow you to block content from some and not others by the creation of lists.

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