Yesterday, a dear friend posted this on my Facebook page.

Hey Everyone…I’d like to keep my FB private except to those I am friends with. So if you all would do the following, I’d appreciate it. With the new FB timeline on its way this week for EVERYONE, please do both of us a favor. Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says : “Subscribed”. Hover over that, then go to “comments and likes” and unclick it. That will stop my posts and yours to me from showing up on the bar side for everyone to see, but most importantly it limits hackers from invading our profiles. If you re-post this I will do the same for you. You’ll know I’ve acknowledged you because if you tell me that you’ve done it I’ll “like” it.

Of course, when you read it, you get alarmed.  Facebook has been known for having problems with security and you want to do your part to keep your information private.  So, do you do what your Facebook friend has suggested, and then repost it so your friends do the same?

NO!  As it turns out, this prescription is nonsense, started by people who do not know how Facebook’s security works and/or people who are just having fun with us.  If you unclick what is suggested above, that means you will not see your friend’s comments and likes;  it will not affect what other people see at all.

Security is important in Facebook, though.  To see your security settings

    1. select the small arrow to the right of “home” in the upper right hand corner of the screen
    2. scroll down to “privacy settings”
    3. select the first option, labeled “How you connect”
    4. press “edit settings.”
    5. select the last option, which is labeled,”Who can see Wall posts by others on your profile? (Note: Stories about likes, friendships, and some other types of wall content aren’t included in these settings.)”

This is actually where you control who can see things on your Facebook page. I recommend you set that to “friends” so that only your friends can see what is posted on your page.  That will allow your friends to discuss what other friends have written.  Of course,  you can set it so that only you can see what is there or set it custom, so that only some of your friends can see it.  Those settings provide greater security, but less opportunity for discussion among your friends.

So, let’s go back to the original situation.  Your friend has posted something to your page that seems important.  It is probably a trusted friend, so what do you do?  BEFORE re-posting the warning, CHECK IT!  How?  There is a Facebook page called “Facecrooks” which exists to check warnings like this.  Take a minute and see what they have to say about it.  Or, use your favorite search engine and query using some phrase in the message, perhaps,  “Hover over my name above. In a few seconds you’ll see a box that says”.  If it is a hoax, then it will most likely have a number of hits that discuss it.

If you just forward it, you are propagating the hoax, and you don’t want to do this.  At the very least, you are going to miss out on some of what your friend has to say.

This is not just a problem with Facebook.  Spam through email is a problem too.  If you get a message about some deal that is too good, or a child who is lost or some terrible thing that is about to happen, check it first.  My favorite place to check is Snopes. Checking the message first saves your friends from having unwanted mail, and may keep them from doing something that will have negative consequences.