Getting Over the Social Media Creep Factor

by Ken Mueller on June 26, 2012 · 31 comments

Getting over social media's creep factor

One man’s cool is another man’s creepy.

When it comes to social media, and particularly when new platforms are introduced, or new features are added to existing platforms (or existing features changed), I generally hear two reactions. Either:

“Hey, that’s pretty cool!”


“Ew, that’s creepy…”

For some reason, social networks, and particularly Facebook, tend to prompt rather visceral reactions. Just yesterday I saw a post on Mashable about a new feature of the Facebook mobile app that allows you to find friends nearby. They ended the short piece with this rather loaded sentence:

Does this new feature seem useful or creepy?

For some reason, people who spend a lot of time on Facebook, and love it for all that it is, also often use words like “creepy” and “stalker” about the platform. Some have even dubbed it “Stalkerbook”. When I meet or talk to someone for the first time, I’ll often go to Facebook to see what more I can learn about them. After all, they put that information on there, and made it available to me. My kids think I’m being a stalker. I call it research.

Here’s the thing folks: Any social platform you use, you are there at their pleasure.

Facebook is free. You sign up and create an account, and by doing so, you agree to their rules. It’s the price we pay for deciding we want to use the platform.

So if you think it’s creepy that someone can hit a button to find out if you’re nearby, just make sure you don’t put that information out there. Just about every feature on Facebook can be turned off, or even set for any number of privacy levels. Remember when we used to spend time worrying about checking in some place on Foursquare because we were sure would-be burglars are watching our every move, just waiting to ransack our homes?

If you’re truly and honestly concerned about privacy and “creepers”, you have a few options:

a) Don’t go there – Seriously, if you’re that worried about it, no one says you have to be on Facebook or any other social platform. I mean, most of them didn’t even exist five or ten years ago. You lived without them before, you can certainly live without them again.

b) Filter yourself – I know that’s hard for some of us, but don’t just tell everyone things. You might have this false sense of security because you’re behind a computer screen, but we really can see what you’re writing. Remember those times you post things on Facebook and you get upset that no one notices or comments? Well, if you want us to see those things, we’ll also see the things you should probably keep to yourself. Status updates like:

“I’m going to the store and my house will be empty, with the key under the doormat, for the next four hours.”


“My husband just left on business and I’m an attractive young female. Whatever shall I do while I’m home all alone for the next three days?”

are probably not good choices. Use your head.

c) Understand the platforms and their capabilities – Every platform I’ve ever used has a wide variety of privacy settings. Heck, Facebook allows you to post status updates and information that only you can see and no one else. Not sure why that option is there, but the point is, there are privacy settings. Use them. It’s your job to play around with the settings so that you are safe and secure. Don’t expect Facebook to do it for you, or ask your friends to change their settings so they don’t see your posts. That’s like walking out the front door and yelling to the neighbors,

“Hey, turn your head the other way. Don’t look at me. I’m NAKED!”

So yeah, use those privacy settings. Put some clothes on and shut the curtains.

On the other side of things, if you’re using social media for business purposes, or are collecting user information on your website, go out of your way to explain to people what you are collecting, why you are collecting, and how you are going to use it. Even if you are offering something great through a loyalty program, make sure people understand what you’re getting out of the deal in return.

Be open and transparent, and don’t abuse the privilege. Think about how you like to be treated as someone who uses social media.

And again, as a user, remember that you choose to be there. You are in control of what you share, with whom, and on which platform. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, or any of them.

If you feel the need to share, but don’t want people knowing, there’s always MySpace!



  1. […] recent discussion on Ken Mueller’s blog about the creep factor online caused me to reflect on parsing social networks for professional success and personal […]

Previous post:

Next post: