Lately, I’ve noticed something terrifying on Facebook. I get to see everything my friends are reading. Even some of the stuff they probably don’t want me to know they’re reading. Why is that scary? Because what if they can see everything I click on, too?
There’s a growing trend to make news more social — as in social media. It’s called “frictionless sharing”. Because apparently, we weren’t all sharing enough information on Facebook so Yahoo decided to do more for us. If you click on a permissions screen while logging into your email, your friends may now be able to see everything you read on Yahoo, whether you want them to or not. I became aware of this when I activated the Washington Post Social Reader (not really knowing what it was) and saw that my teenage babysitter had been perusing several articles about sexting.
I didn’t need to see that. I also didn’t need to see who was reading about consensual adultery or a discussion of recent casting discussions on Glee. Oh! Casting on Glee? CLICK. And that’s the point. You see what your friends are reading and then you read it, too. Except there’s the question of consent. Because many people aren’t aware that they’re sharing this information.
I want to opt out. Aside from the privacy concerns, at least for me, the potential for humiliation is just too great. I’m an idiot and tend to click on stupid things. Lindsay Lohan recently had her teeth whitened for a Playboy shoot. It’s embarrassing that I even know that. Now everyone knows that I know that.
I called a couple of friends whose reading habits were being shared on my Facebook wall and asked them if they knew about it. One friend knew but had no idea how to turn it off. The other friend was completely horrified: “Do you mean to tell me that every, single one of my Facebook friends can see every, single article I click on? Even if I didn’t ‘like’ it or share it or anything?”
I let her know that I thought it was especially cool that our kids’ kindergarten teacher now knew she spent a good hour reading about the Kardashians.
Then she screamed: “GAHHHHHHH!!!! I hate you internet!” and hung up on me.
I felt like maybe I had done her a solid, letting her know what was going on. Because she also read several articles about Justin Beiber’s alleged baby mama and maybe she didn’t want her co-workers to know about that. Especially as she is generally perceived as being a very intelligent, hard-working and politically astute sort of person.
Then it occurred to me that if I wasn’t smart enough to stop Yahoo and the Washington Post from blabbing my reading list to everyone on Facebook — maybe I could use it to my advantage. Instead of reading the stuff I normally would, I would click on things that actually make me seem like I’m smart. Articles about physics and international development and … Jessica Simpson is pregnant?!
Good thing there’s a way to get out of it. Because I’ll probably still click on the silly stuff, even if I know people are watching. This article from PC World is really helpful if you want to disable these social features on Facebook and keep your clicking habits to yourself.
Don’t miss out on more tech advice from Babble!
Online Etiquette: 5 social media rules for new parents