Chris is a final year Cybernetics and Computer Science student. Active on a number of social networks, Chris took the decision a few months ago to take his Digital Identity in hand.
“It was the culmination of a lot of things,” he says. “Facebook’s been annoying me for quite a while, so I just got to the point where I thought ‘right, I’m fed up with you lot, get off my stuff!’.”
The end of the affair between Chris and Facebook started a few months back. “The introduction of applications kicked it off,” he says. “Basically people started spamming me with loads of emails – notification emails and that sort of thing. Loads of applications started firing up, and it was like every five minutes getting a notification that “someone’s done this to you” – I switched that off. Now it’s more about me getting what I want from Facebook rather than Facebook getting what it wants from me.”
The next nail in the coffin was the controversial change in terms of service earlier this year. “That annoyed me greatly,” says Chris. “It turned into a PR stunt eventually, but I don’t think enough people took it seriously enough. And I also think some people took it too seriously.
“ That they changed it, and then two days later changed it back again led me to believe that they didn’t really know what they were doing – that they weren’t really in touch with their user base, they were only in touch with developers because they were the people making them money. The original change reflected that.”
Disenchanted, and seeking to exert a greater degree of control over his content, Chris cast a critical eye over his Facebook page. “I looked at my Wall and looked at my profile on there, and basically felt that it wasn’t representative of what I wanted people to see, it was a representation of what other people wanted – and they were making a mess of it,” he says.
“ And thinking about placements and trying to get a job this summer, it struck me I wouldn’t want people who might be working with me, or might be looking to employ me in the future, to see all this stuff. I wasn’t really bothered about it until then. And then a switch flipped, and I thought I don’t want people seeing this, or pictures tagged to me, and this, that and the other. “
Chris admits that all this put him in such a foul mood, his initial reaction was to delete everything – but decided instead to re-engineer his Facebook profile. “ In some ways I’ve made my information more open,” he says, “ but in some ways less so.
“ I turned my Facebook profile more into something that you would see if you went to Linkedin. So it’s got my qualifications, contact details and work history on it, that kind of thing – the information that I want to put on there. It doesn’t have things like my photos, photos tagged of me or any of that. It’s all been removed, and a lot of my pages have been locked down.”
The lock-down process proved quite a challenge, he adds. “I spent an hour buried in the Facebook privacy things and the application settings, basically turning everything off. So no apps writing to my wall, nobody writing on my wall, the wall is hidden, all my private photo albums are set to hidden and, in essence, no one can now do anything on Facebook which changes my profile.
“ I can change my profile – but it is quite difficult to do – you can’t turn your wall off to everybody without adding everybody to a friends group and then banning the group. And then I found out I had too many friends, and I could only put 195 of my friends in a group, so I had to make two groups and then ban them! It’s incredibly counter-intuitive.”
Technical difficulties notwithstanding, Chris is happy with decision to prune his profile, and doesn’t feel it would make others feel he has something to hide. “It’s not about shutting yourself away from everybody. In many ways I’ve opened up my details,” he says. “A Facebook-savvy employer probably wouldn’t take too much notice of what’s on someone’s profile – but not all employers are Facebook-savvy, and I’m not going to take that risk. I might come to regret it in the end, but I don’t think I will.”
And in the event of a change of heart, Chris is a man with a back-up plan. “I decided to just hide stuff instead of deleting it in case I change my mind – so then I can change it back again!” he says. “That’s not going to happen for now, but you never know.”