I received an entirely strange and distressing message via my Facebook account last week, which prompted me to update my message access settings (friends only, now).
I have struggled with my social networking accounts a great deal this year: as a journalist and technology commentator, it is sort of strange for me not to be “public” but there is a limit. Cyber harassment is the same thing as harassment, even if the words are typed not spoken.
Turns out that I am not alone in reconsidering my privacy management stance. A survey released by Pew Research Center at the end of February found that more people are updating their privacy settings and pruning the members of their social networks. Indeed, 63 percent of those surveyed as part of Pew’s ongoing Internet usage tracking study said they have deleted people from their friend list. That’s up from 56 percent in 2009. (The survey covered about 2,277 adults.)
The graphic below shows the privacy settings trends shared by the survey respondents.
It turns out that women are more likely than men to be selective. Approximately 67 percent of the women who told Pew that they maintained a social network profile said they had unfriended someone; that compares with 58 percent of men. I think that is a pretty telling statistic.
I actually had such a hard time figuring out who to delete from my LinkedIn account that I finally deleted it altogether about a week ago.
Mind you, I made sure that my contact records were complete before I did so. But the fact is, I was spending very little time there. Most of my contacts were people I didn’t know in person, many of them were public relations and marketing professionals who follow my Twitter feed anyway. I have to admit, I paused for a moment when I realized that the recommendations that I wrote for a number of really super professionals would dematerialize.
I may regret this decision later — and I certainly don’t recommend it for everyone as LinkedIn is super important for people in sales and business development and recruiting — but for me, the all-or-nothing approach to simply deleting this account has prevented a lot of headaches. I no longer fear that people are harvesting my contacts in order to pitch them or solicit business — I have no evidence that this happened, just a paranoia. Plus I don’t have to listen to people bitch at me about why they were selected for elimination.
If people really want to know what I’m writing about, it’s all there on Twitter or Google +, within the limits of my social network paranoia. If they really need to pitch a story, ditto. Many of my best contacts and business colleagues are already covered by my Facebook account, my Facebook fan page, and a couple of groups that I belong to there. And if they aren’t, I will be thrilled if they find me there.