The True Story About You – Told By Your Acquaintances

In October, friends of mine became parents for the first time. As often is the case, I got the news on Facebook.

But not from the parents themselves. Someone who had heard the happy news offline had rushed online and posted his congratulations on the proud father’s wall.

This is just one example on how we increasingly are shaping what others know and think about our friends and family.

Even though this phenomena isn’t new – we have always gossiped and talked about each other – social media is adding speed and reach.

A few years ago, the news about the happy parents had spread from friend to friend. Today, all that’s needed is a click on the trackpad and almost everyone will know.

Yesterday’s news from Instagram reminded me about this. With Photos of you, your Instagram friends can tag you in photos they upload. And, as almost always is the case, the company has chosen opt-out over opt-in. The default setting is that pictures in which you are tagged will show up on your profile, not that you should approve them before they are added to your profile. For that, you have to make an active choice.

We have heard about problems with people tagging and adding others before. When the Most Personal Secrets Get Outed on Facebook is one example.

Choosing not to participate on Facebook, Instagram and other platforms does not change much. Without an account, you can’t be tagged. But there is nothing preventing someone to mention you in a comment or status update.

It is hard to think of a technical solution to this. Instead, it is with compassion this can and should be taken care of.

There are some simple questions you can ask yourself:

“Does she really want me to upload a picture of her on Instagram?”

“Does he really want me to tag him when checking in on Foursquare?”

“Does she really want to be a member of this Facebook group?”

If not sure, ask the question out loud. And respect the answer.

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