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Beware Of Facebook Graph Search

How to avoid becoming the butt of an internet joke

By

Beware Of Facebook Graph Search

Courtesy: Actual Facebook Graph Search

In January 2013, social media giant Facebook introduced a new feature called Graph Search. Unlike typical web searches, Graph Search looks only at Facebook data, accessing the plethora of information submitted by their users every day. Basically, Facebook has taken all of the personal data that people have shared, and created the mother of all searchable databases.

What does that mean for Facebook users?

Essentially, if you're on Facebook, you should check your security settings to make sure that you haven't "liked" something silly, perhaps as a joke, that could come back to haunt you if someone were to search for it.

Say, for instance, that you left your Facebook account open while partying at a friend's house. While you were in the bathroom (definitely not throwing up), perhaps one of your prankster friends decided to "like" a few pages on your behalf. Maybe you find that you're now a fan of "Kicking Puppies" or "Not Washing Your Hands After Using The Toilet," but you don't notice right away.

Don't laugh, this has happened. Not to me, though… never. *Cough*

Now that Graph Search is here, anyone who searches for "people who like kicking puppies" will see your smiling face, along with your name, location, and any other information that you've made public on Facebook. As you can imagine, this kind of searching could be problematic for a lot of people. In fact, in light of recent concerns over what constitutes a fire-able offense on Facebook, the results of Graph Search can be personally and professionally devastating.

Devastating, Sure, But Also Kind Of Funny

Just days after the beta version of Graph Search became available to a small portion of Facebook users, an entrepreneurial web developer named Tom Scott noticed that the Graph Search feature had massive potential for humor... along with some embarrassment. Scott quickly created a Tumblr page and started uploading screen shots of funny, ironic searches he had made with Graph Search. The blog, called Actual Facebook Graph Searches, was an instant success, and soon media organizations came calling. The blog received over a quarter of a million hits within the first 24 hours online.

What's So Funny About Graph Search?

Following in the footsteps of Damn You Autocorrect, Texts From Last Night, and Sh*t That Siri Says, Scott capitalized on a current technological trend in society. Using search terms that are, as he puts it, "amusingly contradictory," Scott manages to expose people whose own public data demonstrates their glaring hypocrisy. For example, one screen shot shows a list of people who not only support an anti-gay marriage organization, but who are also fans of openly-gay actor Neil Patrick Harris (who is not only gay, but also married with children).

Some other search results posted on Scott's blog include Jewish Mothers Who Love Bacon, Employers Whose Employees Like Racism, Spouses of Married People Who Like Ashley Madison (a match site for married people who want to cheat), and Married People Who Like Prostitutes. Funny stuff... until it happens to you.

What Can You Do?

Nobody likes being the butt of a joke, and considering the potential ramifications of popping up in an unflattering search thread, all Facebook users should consider this article fair warning to check their privacy settings today. Scott, who decided to quit while he was ahead and shut down the Tumblr blog after just 24 hours online, also issued this excellent reminder before taking his leave of the Graph Search exosé: "Most of the danger online comes not from strangers making half-assed joke searches: it comes from people who know you. A lot of the public data fails what I call the 'bitter ex test': can someone who hates you ruin your life with that information?"

Don't be the butt of this joke. Learn more about updating your Facebook privacy settings here.

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