Last week Facebook gave its Friendship Pages a revamp and I am really uncomfortable with the result. The new look Friendship Pages combine tagged photos and posts of you and your Facebook friend handily on the same page.
I can now see the relationship I have with any of my friends and a record of each interaction I have with them. You can see your own relationship at http://facebook.com/us. From there you can see your relationship, complete with profile photo, wall posts and comments on photos you have shared.
To see shared posts with any of your other Facebook friends, click on the gear button at the top of a friends profile page to see your shared friendship page.
Are you happy with what you see?
Is your shared profile photo the image you want to have as your profile photo? Mine certainly is not. You have not created this page, the other person did not create this page. You probably did not even know that you had a shared Facebook friendship page showing your relationship.
If you are listed as single on Facebook, clicking on the http://facebook.com/us page will invite you to update your relationship.
With 1 billion Facebook accounts, there is a very good chance that you are probably in a relationship with someone else who has a Facebook account. That is what Facebook seems to think.
It is easy to pry into other friendships too. I can type in two names from my own relationship page on Facebook and see the joint friendship page.
If there is a photo tagged with both of them, it appears as the page profile image. It looks like they are in a relationship with each other.
But what is worse is that I can use these shared pages to peek into the private conversations between any two of my friends who also happen to know each other.
I can see any ‘Likes’ that they share – and their mutual friends.
The creepy thing is that I might have missed the original interaction when it occurred. Facebook shows selected updates to your friends depending on who you interact with the most on Facebook.
If the status update from your friend has a lower Edgerank than other items on Facebook, then you won’t see the status update or shared item.
I certainly did not see the birthday wishes between Zack and Mary Jo. Now I wish I had not seen them. I feel like I’m prying, snooping on their private conversation.
Every time you use the '@' symbol to refer to one of your Facebook friends, Facebook stores the relationship connection and logs it to show on your relationship page.
Spookily, it shows male and female (or male male, female female) outlines if it can not find a photograph tagged with both of you.
It shows how long your friends have been Facebook friends and the ‘Browse Friendships’ box on the right hand side of the page suggests other friendships you can pry into.
Friendship links are even suggested for people who are not your friends on Facebook but who have set their post visibility to public.
This feels wrong.
It feels creepy to watch interactions between my friends like this. If I did not see the original post, and have the chance to join in the conversation why would I want to see it now?
It feels like I am listening in to a conversation overheard in a bar or on a bus. I should not be able to see this.
Yes I know that I have given Facebook permission to show my status updates to my friends. I know that I can see comments on status updates, shared photos and videos. But to see them displayed together on a friendship page seems wrong somehow.
To see old conversations between two of my Facebook friends seems like I am reading a private diary.
How do I escape the Facebook friendship stalker pages? Well, I can stop logging in to Facebook, I can stop updating my status and I can stop ‘Liking’ things. I can remove all of my personal information. I can stop referring to any of my friends by never using the '@' symbol in comments.
I can prevent anyone tagging any images of me, and I can remove any tags from existing photos. I can stop allowing anyone to post to my wall and I can never post to anyone else’s wall. In short, I can stop using Facebook to interact with anyone.
My real friends know the status of my relationships, they know where I am, and what I do with my life.
If you are creeped out by Facebook disclosing information about your significant other, disconnect your Facebook relationship and focus on your ‘real life’ with your real, offline face to face friends.