Facebook has recently released a new feature to remind users what they are posting and who can see it. It is a blue dinosaur, crudely drawn, sitting on a high chair at a computer. The reason for the pop-up is to remind users who can see what they are about to post; whether that be just friends, family, or anyone with internet access. The dinosaur is still in the testing phase, and has been for the past couple weeks. The responses have been a mix of slight enjoyment at seeing the little guy, and confusion as to why it is on their computer. The Facebook dinosaur is just something else that reminds users, sometimes annoyingly, how public our posts can be, and helps guard what they are posting from going out into the world unwanted.
It is an interesting option that they are employing. Most internet companies want to drive as much traffic to their site as possible, and increase the amount of information users share publicly. Everyone’s Twitter account is open for the public to view, whether they have an account or not. Facebook determines its trending topics off of what people share publicly, not just to friends or specific groups. To increase this aspect one would think that this sort of public posting should be encouraged, instead they are safe guarding against it.
Perhaps the social network is still trying to make amends because it came under fire in 2011 when they changed user’s privacy settings and did not alert them. This outraged users and the government had to intervene, making sure they alert everyone of changes and not just selling users’ person information to advertising companies without their knowledge. Recently, the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, a group of the most powerful online companies like Google, Twitter, and Yahoo, called out the government for tighter restrictions on internet security. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook is one of the leading voices in the coalition, and the new dinosaur pop-up is just another annoyingly, but efficient, tool that reminds users what they are posting to, and who can see it.
Although the privacy settings have not changed, users are still learning how to protect themselves from posting to the wrong place. When users post on Facebook they have the option to choose who they want to see it; whether it be friends only, certain groups, or public for anyone to see. Often times users will post things like pictures, private messages or general thoughts so only their friends can see. Other times users will post articles they published online, or achievement notifications they want the world to see as a public post. When users do this the setting does not automatically change back, the user has to manually do that. The dinosaur pop-up is there for that very reason, to remind the user who can see the post they are about to share. This is very important, for example, when prospective jobs search online, they can not find embarrassing pictures, or anything that would give them a reason not to hire someone. If the user posted something inappropriate publicly, the job could see it; even though they are not technically supposed to do that anymore.
The move is just another way that the social media giant is trying to connect with its users again. Social media has grown exponentially and the relationship between user and company is not nearly as close as it once was. It is not just college kids, everyone from senior citizens to middle school children are on social media, and there is a learning curve. The Facebook dinosaur reminds users exactly who can see what they are posting, and though it can be annoying to those experienced, for all the new users it can save them a few headaches and some possible embarrassments.
Commentary by Chris Dragicevich