I've always been naturally curious. It's why I was drawn to journalism. This innate urge to explore and investigate tugs at me every day.
So, one might think that social platforms like Facebook are a journalist's dream come true. In some ways, they are: Whatever you can see, you can pretty much print. And people are more real when there's no pressure to deliver a quote for a story.
One might also think Facebook in particular is a dream come true for the investigative journalist in all of us, and by "investigative journalist," I mean the people we'd affectionately call "Facebook stalkers." But to use such a term would be unfair.
Before I explain why, let me provide the disclaimer that trolling about Facebook is, in fact, part of my job, which means I have to know a bit more about where to look for certain pieces of information surrounding various search terms, and I have access to certain tools that make acquiring this information easier. Still, what I do is hardly stalking.
In fact, what the dumped girlfriend does when she hops onto Facebook and keeps tabs on the bozo who jilted her is hardly stalking, either.
Here's why: Facebook makes it so gosh-darned easy to find out just about anything about anyone — especially if they don't know how to use privacy controls. Respectfully, the investigative challenge Facebook presents is weak at best.
That's because Facebook is inherently designed to expose you, no matter how skilled you are at setting up privacy controls, creating lists or secret groups, or what have you. It's the nature of Facebook's business.
Trust me: It's really not that hard to uncover anything, about anyone, at any given point in time, with very little effort — if you know where to look and you're in the right place at the right time. Why? Because while YOU may know how to practice common sense, you can't force others to do the same. Facebook banks on it. Remember that the next time you do anything on this platform. And I mean ANYTHING.
How does Facebook expose you?
When you like, comment, or otherwise interact with any piece of content. Notice how you'll get random notifications in your news feed about people you don't even know or follow? That's because one of your friends has liked one of their photos, or commented on one of their status updates. How do you stop it? You can hover over your friend's name, and un-check "Show in News Feed." This will remove that person's interactions from your news feed without requiring you to un-friend them. Still — any time you like, comment, or share a post, you should do so with the understanding that anyone could see that interaction.
When you friend someone. Even if you put that friend on a list you control, the connection will be announced in the side news feed. And if that friend has posted pictures of you, and doesn't make privacy as much of a priority as you do, all someone has to do is click on your connection announcement, check out your new friend's profile, and bam! You're exposed.
When you don't pay attention to privacy settings. Facebook's default settings are not designed with privacy in mind. The more you reveal, the more money Facebook makes. Which is why you need to go in and change your default privacy settings, and take advantage of every opportunity to customize them. Don't go with suggested defaults.
When you join Facebook in the first place. By joining Facebook, you're giving permission for a service to access your life. You can take a common sense approach: If you wouldn't want your boss or mother to see it, don't post it. If you follow that logic, you should be OK, as long as you apply it to every last cotton-picking thing you do on this social network. Otherwise, you really have no cause to complain. If something happens that violates your rights, take every action to correct it. Then get the heck off of Facebook for good.