One of the biggest changes facebook made the other day with their new profile design was the introduction of tagged photos to the top of a users profile page. This is a very smart move by facebook but it’s also something users need to be aware of and careful with…
Why is it smart for facebook?
It’s smart because more emphasis is now placed on pictures. That means pictures take on a greater importance in users eyes so they’re gonna upload more and tag more friends. Why? Users will see this as a potential weakness with their profile. A facebook profile is all about self presentation to not only friends, but to strangers or potential friends. If individuals lose control of the way in which they present themselves, they’ll try to influence the people who have control of their image – in this case friends & family.
My guess is people will upload more pictures and pose for more if they think there’s a chance they’ll appear on facebook. Although everyone will deny it, facebook is a competition like any other social network. It’s a popularity contest and my guess is people who upload more photos and tag more people, will slowly start to become the most influential people on facebook.
All of this is good news for facebook of course… yes there’ll be the usual privacy complaints and we’ll hear stories about people losing jobs because of photos they’ve been tagged in but so what? You can’t roll out changes to 500m accounts and expect everyone to be happy. If facebook introduce changes which increase traffic, time on site and interaction amongst users, then they’re doing their job and benefiting the vast majority of users.
Why should you be worried…
On the Irish apprentice last night, one of the candidates (Michelle Massey) was interviewed by a HR expert and presented with an old modelling picture found online. ‘And what?’ would be my opinion. If businesses want employees with zero online presence, they’re asking for trouble. Someone with a huge presence online is much more predictable and trustworthy than someone with zero online presence in my opinion.
If you can interact with people online and offline for years on end without any problems or damaging photos, it shows you know how to handle yourself and avoid potential banana skins. The reality is most of us have only left digital DNA around the web over the past 5 years or so. Fast forward 20 years and then wait for the embarrassing photos or quotes. It’ll be much worse. And that’s the way we must think… accept that we’re never going to have a squeaky clean profile online, but also acknowledge the fact we know how powerful this stuff can be. One bad decision, one photo and it’s forever associated with you.
If you have pictures of friends in less than flattering poses, upload them & tag those friends, you’ll do damage to friends if those photos can be seen by potential employers but also i’d imagine it could damage to your own credibility… an employer might think “hmmm that’s pretty careless, this guy should have had the vision to see he was damaging his friend’s image”.
Facebook, by introducing these new tagged photos at the top of users profile pages, is assuming all of our friends are genuine friends. My guess is there’ll be plenty of people who’ll be the victim of tag spam. If you’re trigger happy with the ‘accept’ button, and become friends with strangers, they can then tag you in images of teeth whitening products or something spammy. It’s an easy way to get an image seen quickly by lots of people and potentially an easy way to damage your reputation if your friend aren’t ‘real’ friends.
So now, more than ever before, i’d recommend you sever ties with strangers in facebook or certainly people you can’t trust. The more popular you are, the more ‘at risk’ you are of being targetted by spammers or people who want to embarrass you.
Of course all of these problems could be avoided by deleting your facebook profile or locking everything down to direct friends only but personally i don’t like to see people doing that – i like to see people that are open and don’t have padlocks on their page. I think it suggests honesty and transparency, but that’s just me…