Things about Me Meme Comes to Facebook

January 29th, 2009 5 Comments

Photo by willnorris on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Photo by willnorris on Flickr, used under Creative Commons

My wife and several of my Facebook compadres have engaged in the latest version of the “things about me” meme.

Only this time, it’s 25 things and 25 people.

You may recall about a year ago, I started up a version of this meme, a.k.a. blog tag, with the eight things/eight people format. If you read here, you’ll remember it was met with mixed reactions. If you don’t remember or weren’t with us then, it might be worth a read. The comments are where it gets juicy.

I’m a proponent of sharing personal anecdotes, so in theory, I’m in favor of the 25 things meme on Facebook. In practice though, it looks really dangerous.

I have a few reasons why I won’t be participating, and you might want to think twice before racking your brain for 25 random things.

Social hacking is my top reason. The more someone knows about you, random, anecdotal or otherwise, the easier it becomes to pose as you, i.e. steal your identity. This puts more than just you and yours at risk because even if you don’t participate, you could be victimized by a phisher using a compromised account, posing as your friend.

“But Jake, aren’t you a serial blogger and didn’t you share eight dumb things about yourself last year?”

So, yes and yes. I am calling the kettle black. However, when I prepared my eight things, I went into it with eyes open. I know Google will always have a record, and I used things that I was comfortable with sharing to the entire Intertubes.

This meme on Facebook isn’t as clear. It asks for way more facts and anecdotes, and it bleeds outside your network of friends. Even though your list is only shared to your network of friends, they can each comment on it. This leads to bonus information about people who are even in your network.

Observe. Person A is my friend. Person A fills out 25 things and tags me. Person B is not in my network, but is in Person A’s network. Person B comments on Person A’s list. I can see Person B’s comment, which (surprise!) frequently gives me insight into Person B.

So, I think the Facebook meme carries with it a false sense of security that only your friends can see things about you.

I also find it a bit unsettling that my “friends” would want to know more about me. Wouldn’t they already know me?

Unless you’ve kept a very close eye on your list of friends, the answer to that question is “not so much”. I have 344 Facebook friends. My guess is that I’ve met about 10% of those people IRL at some point; further, I probably “know” about 20% of them through virtual exchanges (email, virtual teams, blogging, Twitter, etc.).

This is a function of my own lack of policy for friending on Facebook, and I’m sure most people have higher percentages. Still, it calls into question the definition of friend on Facebook and how well friends there know each other.

Now for the big finish.

Not really, but anyway, when people ask me about online privacy, I always laugh. There is no such thing, and there’s no going back once you jump into the ‘tubes. Armed with that nugget and a healthy dose of paranoia, you should be fine.

Did you remember to change your Facebook password to a strong one?

To be clear, I’m still in favor of humanizing the community we have with each other on the ‘tubes. I think it applies more to blogging (and possibly Twitter), than Facebook, but still, I’m for it.

What I’m against is trusting too much.

What do you think? I’m sure you’ve seen the 25 random things meme by now. Did you participate?

Sound off in comments.


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5 Responses to “Things about Me Meme Comes to Facebook”

  1. Michael Rife Says:

    What surprised me on FaceBook is the album security. If I post a picture in one of my albums and identify my friend in that picture, all of my friend's friends (who may not be my friends) now can see all the pictures in my album, not just the picture my friend is in. Be very careful posting pictures.

  2. Jake Says:

    I've noticed that too. It's the same “friends-of-friends are my friends” theory in action. I think the FB privacy settings can handle this (I hope anyway, but haven't tried), but I've heard more than one FB n00b complain about how complicated the privacy settings are.

    Privacy needs to be easy. Strong passwords need to be required.

  3. chet Says:

    I haven't partaken in the meme and I'm not sure I will. Probably because I've never really liked those things and more likely that I'm Facebook Lazy. However I am not afraid to post personal information on my blog as you well know. I've also gotten myself into a “little” trouble blogging. ;)

    I agree about being careful. I just shared this link from ReadWriteWeb (probably got it from your shared items) with my father and wife who are fairly new to the game and both took part in the meme.

    Strangely my mom told me tonight about her hesitation about one of Kris' items. I told her Facebook was a closed environment and that her settings were set pretty high…then I put 2 and 2 together reading this post…hmmm…

    Ultimately Kris and I are pretty open. We have no real issues sharing our personal information with friends and acquaintences…it's who we are. There is no shame here (well, maybe a little ;).

    I also look at it as “claiming” your online identity. Better you do it than someone else do it for you. I think you mentioned that too.

    Anyway, you should be careful. I've learned some lessons the hard way and would love to help people avoid such situations. It is “forever” online.

  4. chet Says:

    just changed my password too…

  5. Jake Says:

    I don't worry too much about mistakes. Sure, they're around “forever”, but as you say, at least it's authentically you.

    You also get at the main problem w/FB. When you blog, you get (or you should get) the deal. It's public on purpose; everyone can see if they want. FB has an air of protection which is dangerous; people say different things if they think they're among friends.

    This is also why it could soon be overrun with ID thieves and phishers. If a dictionary attack could get you into a Twitter admin's account, imagine how many profiles out there are ready for picking and reselling.

    Scary. This is why I keep pushing for strong passwords. As you say, you should own your online identity and protect it accordingly.

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