Facebook: Don’t Mess with My Downton (or Take a Deep Breath, a Sip of Scotch, and Review Your Privacy Settings)

Confession: I read past the spoiler warning every time.  So, when I signed onto Facebook Monday morning and was greeted by friends who’d seen Downton Abbey the night before and were shocked and saddened by the episode, I couldn’t help but do a bit of research.  My Facebook friends were kind and did not divulge the source of their grief – but I knew something big had happened and couldn’t wait until the full British version arrived (we do DVDs, not DVR) to see it.Screen shot 2013-01-30 at 12.21.52 PM

The Internet is so easily searchable that in 20 seconds or less I’d found out what all the fuss was about, felt my own dismay, anger, and grief, AND couldn’t share it with those in my household!  For the second time in a month, I wished Facebook didn’t exist (way to blame the source smphobe!).  It made me want to organize my Facebook friends into “people who watch Downton” and “people who could care less about a subtle, British, dialogue-driven series”.  With the U.S. launch of Facebook’s new graph search, finding this information should be easy.  With graph search, Facebook indexes data from personal profiles and status updates (i.e., places, photos, people, Likes, etc.) to make it searchable.

Many in the blogging and digital community are up in arms about the potential privacy risks.  I don’t see much room for debate here.  Facebook programmers are trying to find ways to improve their product, and certainly needed to improve their search function.  It’s not Facebook’s problem that your kid tried to hock black market pantry items to his friends or that your daughter has a mind of her own, fell in love with the help and ran away to Ireland to marry. Those are personal problems until one makes the choice to share on Facebook.  It’s our responsibility to check our privacy settings.  Facebook graph search will only index information set for the “public”, so now is the perfect time to review your privacy settings and talk to your kids (PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE) about how future employers will query Facebook to vet job applicants.  If you wouldn’t write it on a billboard or wear it on your t-shirt, don’t put it on Facebook!  What I’d really like from Facebook (or iOS) is some sort of intoxication alert that won’t allow publishing on Facebook or sending Tweets that you may regret in the morning.

I’m on the waiting list to try the Facebook graph search beta. If I had it today I’d search for friends in my city who like Downton Abbey and invite them over this weekend for a Downton-style feast (and marathon, as the DVDs are scheduled to arrive Saturday!).

Flamingo Baking: Lessons in Accepting Limitations and Coming to Terms with the Past on Facebook

Every year as my children’s birthdays approach, we start talking about cakes.  Not what flavor necessarily, but the shape.  Their cakes set the theme for their parties and they’ve made very elaborate baking requests in the past.  I generally spend weeks thinking about the upcoming cake, considering my strategy and ingredients, and at least a day baking and building the thing.  This week, recognizing the limitations of my broken foot, I ordered one from a local bakery.  I felt some guilt in this, despite the fact that Anna and I together couldn’t even remember all the cakes from the previous seven years.

Even my Shutterfly account only had cake pictures going back to 2009.  To dig deeper I had to consult Snapfish and Walgreens using an old email account.

Elmo cake - 2009

Elmo cake – 2007

Castle Cake - Anna's 4

Castle cake – 2009

Bubble Bath Cake - Noah's 1

Bubble bath cake – 2009

Merry-go-round cake - 2010

Merry-go-round cake – 2010

Train cake - 2009

Train cake – 2009

The thing about digging this deep into the past is that you find more than just cakes. You find your life history, chronicled somewhat haphazardly at first, and then more regularly with the rise of Facebook.  Ghosts of your past may still linger on Facebook – my own certainly did as I posted a status update indicating how strange it is that I remember what time I was taken to the hospital, who drove me, the faces of the nurses who cared for me, being told not to push because the chord was wrapped around her neck.  What followed – the gory details of having a somewhat premature baby in the special care nursery, the 8-day hospital stay during which I didn’t know if she’d survive, my relationship with the abusive breast pump, the 15 months of sleepless nights, the post-partum depression – these details get fuzzier with each passing year.  I didn’t expect the ghosts to pop up – my ex’s friends sending nasty comments in a public forum.  At first, I was shaken – why would they choose my daughter’s birthday to amplify their hateful message?  Then, I realized that it was high time I edited my friends list.

As social media managers, we have many options when it comes to treading the muddy waters of social media public relations.  When criticism is taken social, we have two choices: 1) address the criticism in the forum in which it is presented; or 2) take the conversation offline as soon as possible.   Option 2 seems best, especially if you’ve been monitoring your social mentions and catch the comments as they are made.  I did respond privately to one particularly misguided comment, but the others I simply deleted from Facebook.  This is ALWAYS an option!  Also, why are these people still listed as my friends?  I haven’t unfriended anyone in nearly three years; unfriending is still seen as such a dis and I’m generally open to maintaining relationships from my past, with a glimmer of hope that something that once tied us together remains.  It’s different when someone tries to rain on your kids’ birthday parade.  Instead of just unfriending, I opted to BLOCK them from my Facebook page altogether. This means that not only are we no longer friends, but that they won’t be able to find me if they search for me on Facebook and I’ve wiped the slate clean.

Anna, of course, insisted on taking tie-dyed cupcakes to her class – not exactly standard fare at the local grocery store.   Empowered by the rush from BLOCKing the negativity from my life, I rigged a stool on which to rest my knee and stood on one foot – flamingo style – at the mixmaster to bake my peace-loving hipster of an 8 year-old the cupcakes she wanted.  It was painful, and perhaps I should’ve just accepted my limitations and told her that mom’s not superwoman; but sometimes learning to accept our limitations means finding creative solutions rather than giving up.

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Tie-dyed cupcakes baked flamingo style