Why Being Too Private On Facebook Is Actually A Bad Thing

There are plenty of stupid things you can do on Facebook, but you perhaps wouldn't expect being too private to be one of them. Think again. There are actually real downsides to locking down your Facebook profile. It can hurt you in a job search and affect the quality of the search results for your name. Here's why.

Title photo by Ilya Andriyanov (Shutterstock).

Facebook can be a little scary when it comes to your privacy. It doesn't have the greatest track record when it comes to respecting privacy, and we've all heard stories about how prospective employers have found embarrassing photos and information that led to problems in the hiring process.

When we hear about the downsides of sharing information publicly, our instincts turn to paranoia. We want jobs. We don't want to be embarrassed. We want to survive online with our dignity intact. Those are all fine goals, but completely locking down your Facebook profile to achieve them is taking it too far. It can actually hurt you because you are not providing good information about yourself.

When You Post Nothing, Everyone Else Decides Who You Are

You don't have control over what other people post about you. If you get drunk at a party and someone snaps a photo, it may end up online. Sure, you can untag yourself and try to control the possible damage from embarrassing stuff popping up, but there's really no way to stop it all. You may not have active tags on Facebook, but that doesn't mean that photo won't still exist and won't show up elsewhere. When people are constantly contributing information to Facebook, as well as other parts of the web, you're always stuck playing catch-up if you're trying to control how others talk about you.

This is why you need to contribute public information. If you don't, you're providing no information about who you are. If you don't post anything, everyone else determines what you look like to a stranger who searches for your name. In a job search, this can be pretty problematic. The first results can be embarrassing. If you share a name with someone else, his or her results may come up instead. You put yourself at risk by not contributing positive information about yourself.

The Solution: Publicly Post What You Want Others to See

It's fine to keep most of what you post on Facebook private and only visible to friends. That said, if you want to look good in public, you should be posting a few things that make you appear like the upstanding citizen you believe yourself to be. Share photos from fun family events, opinions about a gadget you really love or hate, and tame messages like regular birthday wishes. There are plenty of things you can share in public that don't reveal anything private but show that you're a good person. When a prospective employer "stumbles" upon your Facebook page, they'll see the good stuff you want to share and be more likely to miss out on the embarrassing stuff your friends (or enemies) may have lurking elsewhere online.

This can be easier said than done. Facebook has some pretty intimidating privacy settings, but we explain them all here. Be sure to read that guide if you don't know how to manage your privacy settings in a way that allows you to be selective about what is private and what you'll let the world see. You can't control everything about your online persona, but you still have more control than anyone else. Use it wisely.


Comments

    The more I read about FB the more I loath it. Now you need a profile if you want a job? Until just recently I have abstained from it but I recently put up a bogus profile because there are now websites out there that require a FB account to access their shit! This is getting out of hand, we should not need to bare ourselves to the world for the sake of a face in the community. Whilst I am willing to concede that in this day of putting the most banal piece of information on the net is considered the norm, we should start to use other community interfaces other than just FB.

      why should we have to use community interfaces other than FB? the entire reason FB has become such a normal method of accessing pages and retrieving quick information about someone is because it has greater reach than any other community. Websites offer facebook login (which, by the way i have never seen as the only option) because it makes peoples lives easier.
      if we started another community for things like centralising logins to websites, you would simply need to create yet another account that you have to manage, no different to the "bogus account you recently created

        I think you're missing his point. Why should you have to go via Facebook in any situation? Personally I like my privacy.

        So what you're saying is I should just use FB and be happy about it?
        If there are others around, and there are, Google etc. then we should at least have a choice. And,.. they shouldn't be deciding on workers by there private activities.

        Example of site that you can ONLY login with facebook: Spotify.

    Timmahh, I totally agree. I was once an avid Facebook user but now I try to avoid itas much as possible. I tend to use the messages functionality but that is it. I have even written letters to websites asking for them to implement alternatives to the Facebook login. Really hate that.

      Like, Real letters? With stamps and stuff?

    This comment has been deemed inappropriate and has been deleted.

    You've just proven the point in regards to having control over your own information, the people you list on your friends list have the most potential to cause most of your data breaches, if not sharing your drunk photos's its giving app's access to your personal information - as long as you assume that everything you share with your friends is going to end up in some marketers/apps/ random strangers data banks then share away.

    Anyone who makes a hiring decision, or any other negative decision, based on the lack of information on a person's FB profile is a fool. FB is not taken seriously by people worth taking seriously - if you get my meaning. Its not a serious tool, but it can have serious consequences if you or someone else posts negative information about you.

    Which is one of the many many reasons I don't use it. I don't need it. It isn't useful to me. I know who my friends are, I know how to contact them, and they know who I am and how to contact me.

    Maybe, that's why FB shares are plummeting. Wall Street analysts think the shares are actually only worth just under $10 each - not $38! If so, it just confirms all the hype about FB is just that - hype, hot air, vapourware - nada. As Shakespeare once wrote - Much Ado About Nothing.

      I agree,

      Any company that bases hiring decisions on information about someones life outside work hours, when they aren't a representative of that company, is a company that should take a good look at itself and its' hiring practices.

    Everyone else decides who you are? So what about all those people that are NOT ON FB? how is gossip and misrepresentation exclusive to those on FB? It's a pretty poor argument that you must have a positive 'active' presence to fight some sort of assumption abuse. Isn't the assumption the quality here and not the lack of self representation and privacy?
    I've been on FB for years, have privacy maxed out and don't post anything - unless of course some stupid service that I'm using decides it has the right to post what I'm doing (I'm looking at you Spotify) . Talk about opening the oneself up for being judged when listening to One Direction.

    Timmahh. In your Camp 100%

    I absolutely refuse to join facebook

    Nothing good can come of being "on facebook"

    Any company making hiring decisions based on the amount of information made public on Facebook (or the lack thereof) is a company I have no desire to work for.

    Facebook? Not on it. It's just irrelevant to my needs. If employers need to know something about me, they can ask me to my face. If they are scoring candidates based in their online "presence", that's pretty fucked-up right there.

    My FacetubeSpace profile is highly locked down. I have no personal information listed other than country of residence. I don't use my real name, I instead use the name of a famous actor, as we share the same first name (although not the same gender). I post once or twice a month, but check regularly for direct messages.

    So far, I have not been fired from my job (which is in IT and is regularly related to social media in some way), have not been "judged" due to lack of information, and have not been attacked by a shower of flaming goats armed with spears and rusty needles.

    Pretty sure keeping my Facebook profile minimal and locked down isn't going to kill my career, and that I wouldn't want to work for an organisation who believes it would.

    My Facebook account is for personal relationships. If a hiring company wants to review my social media presence, they're welcome to look at my LinkedIn and Twitter accounts to see my professional profile. I'd be more concerned about hiring someone whose Facebook is completely public, because it implies a lack of discretion. If someone decides not to hire me because my Facebook profile isn't public, I wouldn't want to work for them anyway.

    So you're telling me that a social site that I go on to catch up with friends, I now have to use as a PR platform? If I choose to post nothing because I prefer to share these things in real life, I shouldn't be punished. I won't live my life as an eternal PR project. Work to live, don't live to work. God I hope Facebook starts dying in the next couple of years

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