Thursday, April 8, 2010

Opting-Out of Select Features

While it seems like social media might be necessary to function, stay connected, or to get ahead, it isn’t. It’s acceptable to refuse the onslaught of social media. There is plenty to experience in the world that doesn’t involve a computer screen or a cellphone. A letter or a phone call still mean more than an e-mail or a tagged Twitter update. It’s possible to find employment based on your merit, not your Facebook or LinkedIn profile.

In fact, we’ve done pretty well without it until now. And social media isn't all or nothing. You can opt-out of select features and services while still getting what you need out of social media.

Opting-out doesn't mean living in the dark, as the Onion News Network humorously portrays in its "Google Opt-Out Village" special report. It simply means choosing to not use certain aspects of social media, telling services not to share your information with third parties, and spending your online time wisely.

If you are interested in using social media, but don’t want to be deprived of a legitimate existence beyond the reach of your electronics, I encourage you to use social media sparingly. Evaluate how useful each tool is for your needs. If you know what to look for, you can get the best parts of social media without having to deal with the bad.

Important rules for the cautious social media user:

  1. Know your needs before you start.
    This will keep you focused and help you find the services that are best suited for you.
  2. Know the rules.
    Some services require you to either opt-in or opt-out for specific features. Find out what options are available to you and tailor what services and information sharing practices you agree to.
  3. Log out!
    Facebook communicates with other websites to enhance features and make a profit. This practice may share your information without your full knowledge if you are still logged in when you visit outside websites. Worse, it might then display your activities to anyone in your network.
  4. Personalize privacy settings.
    Know the features of your account and your privacy options. Many opt-out or opt-in features are hidden deep in the account options.
  5. Be selective.
    Many social media services overlap in functionality. Rather than have profiles with three different services, find the one that suits your needs best and stay there.
  6. Don’t commit before you’re ready.
    If the social media service requires you to make a profile or an account in order to view basic parts of the website, don’t bother.
  7. Use a screenname whenever possible.
    Use more than one if you prefer. Facebook requires your real name. But that doesn’t mean you have to leave your name everywhere you go on the internet. Embrace the anonymity and protect your identity.
  8. Use different passwords.
    Never use the same password twice. If you must, at least use different passwords for social media sites so that unwanted parties cannot then gain access to your e-mail, work, or bank accounts.
  9. Never pay for anything.
    Don’t provide your credit card number to Facebook or other social media websites, even if you don’t buy anything.
  10. Delete old profiles.
    If you no longer want to use a service, delete your profile and cancel any e-mail notifications. It won’t remove your data from the history files entirely, but it keeps your information more secure and prevents spam.
  11. Don’t play games.
    Online games are the easiest way to lose money through social media platforms. If you want to play a video game, go to an arcade or buy a solid game that is worth the investment.
  12. Choose applications wisely.
    Applications can be useful and fun. Like games, however, they can leech money and time from you. Only choose the most important ones for your needs.
  13. Bookmark your favorites.
    Save time by clicking a single button to get the news you need without having to type out addresses or search terms and sort through the results.
  14. Contribute when it feels right.
    You don’t have to leave a comment everywhere you go, but feel free to engage in discussions and to commend good works. It’s acceptable to use a pseudonym or a screen-name; you do not have to use your real name.

Embracing social media doesn’t mean giving up your identity and your free will to the denizens of the internet. You can choose what people see about yourself and what you see about others.

You can engage in discussions, projects, and networks that appeal to you the most. Social media should be free to participate in, although always consider the possibility of making special, one-time donations to your favorite connections.

Most importantly, remember that social media is a realm of choices. But you must actively make and protect the right to make those choices. Otherwise social media services, like any growing business, will sell you out for a nifty project or a crisp dollar.

Choose when and where you want to accept social media and firmly deny it where it isn't welcome.


  1. I really enjoyed reading your post, Denae. One very important point that you made was to log off. Often times I lazily leave Facebook to check my email and forget to log off entirely. After reading your blog I've been making sure to log off before leaving the site.

    Also, when on Facebook I constantly receive invitation from friends to use applications such as "hug me" or birthday reminders and as much as I would like to be a team player, I just don't trust FB enough to add the applications.

    I have to admit though, FB is very addictive. I tend to feel out of the loop if I don't log on at least once a day. I hope to one day have the courage to delete my profile.

  2. I agree with some points of this post, but I really think my social life has improved now that I'm involved in social media. Now, instead of trying to call people to invite them to a party or mail expensive invitations, I just throw the event up on my Facebook and friends from past and present show up. I also feel like I'm much more involved in my friend's lives without having to talk on the phone (something I HATE.) I've definitely gotten out of my workaholic shell and out into society a lot more since I reconnected (or connected) with a lot of friends on Facebook, so I disagree that social media takes away from your social life. I think its just the opposite.

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  4. Great post. I agree with you about being careful about adding applications and games. My concern with apps. is that they may be pulling private data without my approval and sending it to a third party.

    @Jenn ... Facebook has been a mixed bag for me regarding social life. It's great to keep up to date with what is going on with family and friends but I have found that they call less now. So, social media gets us more involved in each others lives but also seems to distance us as far as direct contact (at least in my case).

  5. @Jenn ... I'm glad that social media has been a way for you to ease out of work and into society. Sometimes a stroke of a key feels like less of a burden and you're willing to talk to more people because of it.

    Facebook tends to help me keep track of long-distance friends who I want to talk to, but our time zones are far apart or our schedules don't work out so that we can ever spend time together in person. I can always drop a note to ask how they are doing without interfering in their day.

    Hopefully these tips will help someone who isn't quite integrated into social media yet and want a way to use it without abusing it.

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