Can anything be considered private once it’s out there on Facebook?

A CERTAIN Iris finds me too tall, and promptly makes her opinion on this photo of my wall known.

A CERTAIN Iris finds me too tall in a photo with Paul Henson and Connie Garcia featured on my own wall, and promptly makes her opinion known. Social etiquette in the online world seems to have eluded her.

I HOPE 2013 finds you in good health, the right frame of mind and with no missing digits after failing to heed for the nth time your mother’s warning not to light up firecrackers to greet the New Year. 😀

Now, let’s begin with today’s business. I’m sure I wasn’t the only one who noticed this copy-pasted post making the rounds of Facebook a few weeks before we all said goodbye to the old year.

But apart from a few friends of mine who reposted it, the post never caught on. Not only did it manage to make me scratch my head because of how it was written, I really doubt if it would work. Below is the said message:

“Hello, my FB friends: I want to stay PRIVATELY connected with you. I post shots of my family and friends (including you) that I don’t want strangers to have access to. However, with the recent changes in FB, the ‘public’ can now see activities in ANY wall. This happens when our friend hits ‘like’ or ‘comment’—automatically, their friends would see our posts too. Unfortunately, we cannot change this setting by ourselves because Facebook has configured it this way.

“PLEASE place your mouse over my name above (DO NOT CLICK), a window will appear, now move the mouse on ‘FRIENDS’ (also without clicking), then down to ‘Settings’, click here and a list will appear. REMOVE the CHECK on ‘COMMENTS & LIKE’ and also ‘PHOTOS’. By doing this, my activity among my friends and family will no longer become public.

“Now, copy and paste this on your wall. Once I see this posted on your page I will do the same. Thanks!”

What’s wrong with this message?

What’s basically wrong with this message? Let’s not parse with the way it was written nor check if it works or not. Such concerns are best left to members of the grammar police and the techie community with too much time on their hands.

What I want to zero in is the supposed concern on privacy the originator of such a message wanted to protect and uphold.

I understand why it was reposted by a number of my friends. Facebook, perhaps in its desire to generate more discussion and open up bits and pieces of our lives to more advertisers and marketing profilers, has this fairly new feature (actually, it has been around) wherein friends of your tagged friends, apart from seeing pictures you’ve posted, can now even leave their comments on such pictures.

It wasn’t like this before. Back when Facebook was a novelty, the most you could see were certain pictures of friends of your friends straying into your newsfeed. Although you could read comments generated by such pictures, there was no way for you then to weigh in or make comments.

I assume the pictures I posted before also ended up being seen by friends of friends, and even the world at large. Like me, they also probably couldn’t comment or cared to comment on my pictures. It’s like an online version of seeing something tantalizing and intriguing in real life, but being unable to touch it. Darn!

Well, not so today. Like I said earlier, strangers (a.k.a. friends of your friends) can now view your pictures and even comment on them. I say, well, so what?

MEANWHILE, a certain Vasiliki, Facebook friend of Tina Di Cicco (left), betraying good taste, loves my jacket

MEANWHILE, a certain Vasiliki, Facebook friend of Tina Di Cicco (left), betraying good taste, loves my jacket

Do people who post comments, pictures, links and articles on Facebook think they could keep anything—from their photo-shopped images to their politically correct and/or irreverent beliefs—“private” for long?

Why, even the pages and personalities you “liked” has a way of showing up on your friends’ newsfeeds and, in the process, reveal some telling morsels about you. In short, is there such a thing as private these days once you put it out there in cyberspace?

Private parts

My point is, if you feel that what you’re about to share is private, then why post it in a social networking sight to begin with? If you think that you can’t defend your beliefs in the public square of opinions, then why share them with others? Despite all the controls at your disposal, such images and thoughts are bound to leak and be seen sooner or later by the world at large.

If you feel that liking a page or even commenting on a shout out, link or issue is bound to incriminate you or slowly strip away the fig leaf covering your secret life, then why participate at all? You’re better off deactivating your account or, like some people I know, trawling and stalking their friends’ pages without so much as giving any post the thumbs up.

Guess what, posting pictures accessible to people you don’t know has become part of life in the new millennium. Get used to it. It can work both ways: as a source of irritant and/or as a source of validation.

A few months ago, for instance, I posted a photo of myself and Tina Di Cicco, a friend of mine based with her family in Singapore. I tagged Tina as well as Ivy Lisa Mendoza, a mutual friend of ours, because I was so delighted to unexpectedly bump into Mrs. Di Cicco in one of those events in Manila.

Of course, that picture automatically became viewable to Tina and Ivy’s respective set of friends. The most prudent thing for you to do if you don’t know the person who posted the picture is to simply give it the thumbs up or confine your comments to the person you know, which, in this case, was Tina.

But a friend of Tina by the name of Vasiliki Grammatopoulo (a Greek, I assume) couldn’t resist herself and made the following comment: “Always beautiful (referring to Tina). I like your friend’s jacket (referring to, ahem, yours truly).”

Although Vasiliki and I have never met, her comment on the picture I posted was neither improper nor uncalled for. In fact, it was such a welcome comment that I ended up thanking her. In return, Vasiliki acknowledged my appreciation by giving it the thumbs up, end of a nice story.

More recently, I got another unsolicited comment again from a friend of my friend. Broadcast journalist Paul Henson and I attended the baptism of Sofia Ines, firstborn of Hendrik and Marta Garcia, and had our picture taken with Hendrik’s gracious mother Connie.

By posting the picture on Facebook and tagging Paul and, again, Ivy, our mutual friend, it allowed both their sets of friends access to the image. But this time, one of Paul’s outspoken friends named Iris Jakosalem didn’t possess Vasiliki’s propriety and graciousness.


On the surface, Iris was just being matter of factly (she couldn’t have been further from the truth). But the fact that she was commenting on a picture posted by someone she didn’t know (which happens to be yours truly) should have made her more circumspect. It didn’t. Worse, she was “talking” as if I, the one who posted the picture, wasn’t there.

This was how the latter series of comments went:

Iris: “Hoe-my-gosh again, that man beside you (you, meaning Paul) must be REALLY tall (referring, of course, not to Connie, a woman, but to yours truly).”

alexyvergara: “No, Paul and Connie just happen to be short. 😀 Di ba, Miss Ivy Lisa F. Mendoza?”

Ivy, as if on cue, answered several days later. Since we’ve known each other fairly well, Ivy “rode” on the joke with this retort.

Ivy: “That man is a giant! Ha ha ha”

Iris, despite the seemingly light-hearted exchange between Ivy and I, failed to see the impropriety of her unsolicited comment. Instead of apologizing or simply deleting what she said, she chose to remain silent. This gave me the opportunity to finally put a period to the series of exchanges.

alexyvergara: (in reference to Ivy’s previous comment) “Oo nga (Indeed), Ivy. Pero tinuruan naman si GIANT ng mga magulang niya (but the GIANT was taught by his parents) to keep whatever comments he has re personal pictures of strangers that does not involve him to himself…Hehehe!”

Take note, boys and girls, I didn’t use the word private, but instead went for the word personal. There’s a big difference between the two. While Vasiliki seems to know it well, Iris doesn’t have a clue.

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