Once upon a time we had very little online social media. The news media was dominant and we didn’t have to worry about our accounts being hacked and our secrets being leaked online. We have progressively given more and more information; a list of our friends, pictures and even our current locations to social networks.

Facebook has grown to become the dominant social network and almost all of us have an account at the site. Many of us, me included, feel compelled to check the site daily, hourly or minute by minute for what is fundamentally, boring information about other people’s lives.

We have written this article to see if we can answer a simple question: Can we trust Facebook. Whether we should or not is an interesting debate, and one that the leadership at Facebook is tackling every day.

Why we should

Our entire lives now seem to rely upon trusting Facebook with our information. It has replaced instant messaging and email for many of us, as mobile applications keep us up to date with every event of our friend’s timelines.

If we didn’t trust Facebook then we might well lost touch with many old friends, especially those from university or college that we see very rarely.  Those friendships could be useful in our work life as you might be able to get a ‘heads up’ of new jobs and opportunities.

Why we shouldn’t

Putting all your information in one basket should always raise suspicions. Facebook would love to run your life as it can provide advertisements at every stage. Facebook is a company, and its main priority is to make money. Knowing so much about each person means that it has a huge amount of data that can be analysed. Large companies have put huge amounts into Facebook, and for very good reasons as this data will lead an online revolution in targeted advertising.

What you can do to protect your online identity on Facebook

If you have decided that you want to reduce the impact of Facebook on your online life then you can follow some of the tips below. Remember that Facebook changes it’s setting very regularly but there should always be a way of achieving the below on Facebook.

  1. Alter the privacy settings. The main changes are altering things like photos from being available to all to Friends only or Friends of Friends. Remember though that as soon as someone is tagged in a picture, it is available to them even if they are not your friend.
  2. Delete things from your accounts. Delete anything that you’d rather not be seen by people such as statuses, pictures and messages – even the private ones. Defriend people who you may have friended during university and college and are unlikely to ever see again.
  3. Use more than one online social media site. This will protect you from Facebook dominating your online life and help you to have more than one online social outlet, an online blog or Twitter are good examples of this.

By following the above tips you can reduce the impact of Facebook on your online social life, but the same tips could be applied if you use Twitter or MySpace or any other online social network.

Whether Facebook should be trusted with our data is a decision that will have to made individual by individual – no one can make the decision for us. It is a debate that will grow in intensity as we spend more and more hours of our lives on the internet, many hours of which on Facebook.

Do you trust Facebook? What do you think the site could do to improve itself and make its users trust it more? Please feel free to write a comment below.