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Netiquette of using Facebook Places

Even if you never use Facebook's geo-tagging feature, be aware: thanks to a new Facebook feature, your "friends'' can now post a map of where you are without your permission.

Not comfortable with having the world know where you are at a given moment? Don't panic. A change of privacy settings can block geo-tagging.

But first, you need to know how it works. The newly released feature, called Facebook Places, uses your cellphone's GPS to let you ``check in'' to a nearby establishment and broadcast where you are to your Facebook connections. (In order to ``check in,'' the person doing the tagging must be using Facebook on a cellphone, but anyone can see the information.)

For example, at work I can ``check in'' to The Miami Herald. My profile then says I'm at The Herald, and it shows a map and description of the company, along with other friends who have been here.

Your friends can also do this on your behalf. Facebook Places lets you ``Tag Friends With You'' -- so I can go in and mark off a ton of co-workers (even ones who are not actually in the building), and it shows up on all their profiles as being here.

But ... it's a big netiquette ``no'' to assume others want their location posted to Facebook (or any other social networking site.) If you're out with friends and want to tag them, you need to first ask if no one minds. Even though Facebook's new feature can be turned off, you can't assume everyone is savvy enough to have done that.

If you are queasy about having your whereabouts telegraphed, it's easy to block people from tagging you.

In Facebook, click Account on the far right, and go to Privacy Settings. In the area under Sharing on Facebook, click the link at the bottom of the list that says Customize Settings. There you can see settings related to Facebook Places, including disabling friends from checking in on your behalf.

If your tweens or teens use Facebook, be aware that they can now use their phone to broadcast exactly when and where they are, which can be dangerous if they don't use privacy settings. There's even a way to create a ``check in'' for your home -- something I strongly discourage, no matter what your age.

Facebook's terms of use say no one under 13 should use the site. But I've spoken to several parents with children much younger than 13 on Facebook, and the children simply lie about their age in the profile. Parents should include Facebook Places in conversations about online safety and sharing information with strangers.

Despite these warnings, the service has some fun benefits. The instant I walk in, I can quickly let my friends know of a great band playing at a restaurant I'm at, or a store with a sale going on.

If this location feature sounds familiar, that's because it's not new. Third-party applications like Foursquare and Gowalla have been posting this type of information on Facebook for awhile now -- but now that it's a feature built into the Facebook application and mobile website, expect people to use this more frequently.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 03:27 PM on August 24, 2010 in Facebook | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Big news should be shared personally, not on Facebook

Some news just shouldn't be seen first on Facebook.

Your mom got engaged. Your daughter is moving to another state. Your niece is pregnant.

When I come across stories of people discovering huge news about close family members and friends on Facebook, it shocks me. You might think those examples must be unique cases of someone with poor manners, or an estranged relationship. But they aren't.

I asked my social networks about this topic and some shared eye-opening examples of best friends and close family breaking news -- mostly involving moving and engagement -- in a status message instead of picking up a phone.

To those who are guilty of doing this, your argument could be that Facebook is designed to find out what your friends are up to, and the tool makes it a convenient way to spread news about life changes in a time-crunched world.

I agree that Facebook is a fantastic tool for announcing news to your friends. And I've learned about friends getting engaged or having a baby on there -- but it's never someone who is exceptionally close to me.

Your best friends, parents, siblings and other close relatives should not be treated the same as the other 500 acquaintances on your social network. Posting that news on a status message tells them they are no different than anyone else.

A Twitter user shared a story with me about finding out about her best friend's engagement from a blog post. She said the friendship fell apart after the hurt feelings.

Technology can make us lazy in our communication skills, especially for those hooked on updating Facebook frequently. That said, it's sad for a friendship to be demolished because of a mindless faux pas. If it happened to me, I'd be very hurt, but I'd also let that person know that I would rather not learn about big news that way.

The majority of our time online is spent on social networks. According to Nielsen, social networks take up 22.7 percent of the time spent online, compared to 15.8 percent last year.

Because of that, you can't assume everyone treats social media the same way you do. Many of the examples I heard came from parents of 20-something-year-olds. Younger people have grown up using Facebook and texting as primary communication tools. But we shouldn't let it be the primary tool in every circumstance.

I've also seen drama unfold over news that isn't as big as marriage. One out-of-town user was hit with comments like, ``Why didn't you tell me you were back in Miami?'' after posting a status message about having lunch nearby. Needless to say, it's an awkward moment that could have been avoided with a quick text message to close friends -- or privacy settings to block unwanted people from knowing.

Posted by Bridget Carey at 03:15 PM on August 24, 2010 in Facebook | Permalink | Comments (2) | TrackBack (0)

 
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