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The Basics of Social Media

The Basics of Social Media Activity: Facebook Shmoop.0: Managing Your Profile and Privacy

Instructions for Your Students

Even if you’re not on Facebook, we’re sure you have older siblings or friends who already are. But before you go diving into an ocean of strangers—because, yes, anyone can get on Facebook and see all your business if you're not careful about it—take a step back and think carefully.

In this activity, we're going to work through setting up a profile that’s true to who you are. At the same time, we'll learn about who can access what information about you through your privacy settings. Remember, you’re in control of your image, and you know that not all outfits are meant for every occasion.

Step 1: What if Zeus and Hera were on Facebook? Or how about Perseus and Aphrodite? Take a look at how few of the Greek gods handle social media on Shmoop's "Greek Gods Social Network Drama" handout. 

As you read through the handouts, talk with your teacher and your classmates about some of the Facebook faux pas the gods have committed. It can be pretty awkward when someone (even a god) posts something without thinking about who might see it. 

Step 2 (Optional): Your teacher may have you watch a video called “Social Networks 101,” or you may just skip to Step 3. Listen up so you know what's next. 

Step 3: Take some time to talk about social networking using the discussion questions below:

  1. Facebook is one social networking tool. Can you name any others?
  2. What’s the difference between a regular website and a social network website? 
  3. What kinds of information can users put on their social network web pages? 
  4. Who can view your information on a social network? 
  5. How can you control who views your information, using your privacy settings?
  6. What privacy settings would you set for yourself? Why? 
  7. If you could see five celebrities’ fully honest Facebook profiles, whose would they be?

Step 4: All right. Enough talking about profiles—time to create one... but not online. Instead use this mock-Facebook profile template and fill it out the old fashioned way: with a pencil. 

After everyone has filled out a template, go ahead and swap profiles with someone nearby. You can write on each other’s walls or "like" comments that other people have made.

Step 5: Once you've all had a bit of fun commenting on each others' "walls," get back together with the whole class and talk some more about how and why people use Facebook. Here are some questions to discuss:

  1. What do you/would you use Facebook for? 
  2. What are some types of communication that Facebook is not appropriate for?
  3. Who would you feel comfortable having as your Facebook friend? 
  4. Who would you not want to be your Facebook friend? 
  5. Can you think of ten people who you would friend on Facebook, knowing that they will all have complete access to your profile (this includes your wall, photos, videos, status updates, etc.)? How about 20? 30? Do you think you have more than 100 people in your life who you trust with all that information? At any point did it get harder to think of additional people you trusted enough to allow access to your profile information?
  6. What people in your life would you like to be Facebook friends with, but only if you could give them limited access to your profile?
  7. Of the people you thought of for the last question, which are your friends? Family? Employers? Teachers? Former friends? Former employers?
  8. Facebook also allows people to start groups based on common interests or causes. What groups might you start?

Step 6: Now let's talk a bit about privacy. Take some time to fill out the "Facebook Privacy Settings" handout. Choose which privacy settings you want for each section. Be sure to explain why, for example, you would want the whole world to not see your birthday party photos, or why you do want everyone to know who you’re dating. This isn’t a test: your explanations don’t have to be long, just provide your reasons.

Step 7: Find a partner and talk about your choices. This is just a quick check-in, but if it raises any questions for you, feel free to ask the rest of the class when you come back together. 

Step 8: Just as you want to be careful about who you friend, you'll also have to watch out for who’s trying to friend you. Your teacher is going to run through descriptions of different types of people and ask you and your classmates whether or not you would accept their friend requests. If you raise your hand, be ready to explain your reasons. 

Ready? Would you accept a friend request from…

  • A complete stranger?
  • An attractive stranger?
  • Your grandma or grandpa?
  • A friend of a friend that you don't know well?
  • A real-life friend?
  • Someone you don't like?
  • Your mom or dad?
  • Your brothers or sisters?
  • Your boss?
  • Your soccer coach?
  • Your grandma's old-fashioned cousin?

Step 9: Now that you have a profile and an idea of what to look for in a Facebook friend, we'll move on to the problems associated with the gift of e-gab, including when oversharing is definitely not caring, but scaring.

Your teacher will help you divide into groups so you can read this PC World article on how to avoid real-life Facebook disasters. Each group will be responsible for reading one or more of these 11 Facebook disasters ("Oversharing with the Boss," "He Knows Where You Live," etc.). After a few minutes, each group will present its Facebook disaster and solution to the whole class. 

By the time you're done, you should know how to avoid all of these potential Facebook disasters, and remember: an ounce of caution can prevent a pound of embarrassment. Okay, so that's not the actual expression, but it is true. So be careful out there, and be smart.