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Why would you privatize your Twitter?

March 25, 2009

nisha-twitterI’ve noticed some of my friends lately protect / privatize their Twitter accounts. I suppose when you hear stories like “Twitter Gets You Fired in 140 characters or less” it’s the natural Gen Y / college student reaction to think “Oh shoot, I should privatize everything I post online so no one can read the silly things I say and get me in trouble!”

There are so many flaws in this logic. I’ll point out just a couple.

1. Nothing on the internet is private. Nothing. Ever. It can always be found, no matter how many privacy settings you try to use. Online privacy is DEAD.

2. If you think the things you post online could potentially get you in trouble, why post them online in the first place? And another question, if said things you are posting online are really troublesome, are you sure you’re making smart decisions in your personal life?

3. If you privatize your Twitter, you are essentially saying: “I am shutting myself off completely from making new connections. I do not want to make any new connections or network.” Twitter is not like Facebook. In a conversation with Ryan Healy the other day I heard the best description of the difference between FB and Twitter: Facebook was about taking your offline community and bringing it online. Twitter is about building community online and taking it offline. So if you’re not willing to meet new people, what’s the point?

My thoughts are this: this isn’t 2004, where you could privatize your Facebook and make your blog anonymous, and still post whatever crap you wanted online and have no one find it.

So instead of posting something with potentially disastrous consequences for your job or reputation and making a futile effort to keep it private, go the other route: embrace the fact that anyone can find you online with a simple search, and post things that you are proud of rather than ashamed. Use your inner common sense meter and don’t post things that would get you in trouble in the first place.

You can’t hide anything once it’s online, so don’t try. Just post things you would be proud of online instead.

Do you think privatizing Twitter is a dumb idea? Do you think online privacy is dead?

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23 comments

  1. […] Original post by Nisha Chittal […]


  2. I think it depends on your end goal of using Twitter… I share your perspective and sometimes question why people make their accounts private, but I think that some people find Twitter kind of creepy.

    And this isn’t a generational thing. It’s not about age… It’s about attitude. I would classify the majority of people on Twitter as extroverts. (Is that just my followers, or do you see a similar trend?)

    Introverts probably don’t want to expose their thoughts to everyone. They use Twitter simply to keep up with their good friends.

    They’re still building relationships… they’re just going deep instead of wide.


    • I do think using Twitter requires a little extrovertedness but I don’t think the privacy thing is about introverts and extroverts, I think it’s about individual approaches to online privacy. I think people make things private to hide stuff from employers, family, etc, for the most part — but I think that’s the wrong approach.


    • I also do think it’s a generational thing. I think young people have been conditioned by our older parents and such to think that we need to hide everything we put online. My parents still tell me once in a while about the dangers of privacy issues on Facebook! So I think young people have grown up online, but we’ve always been told by older generations that you need to make sure everything is private so you don’t get in trouble.


  3. Considering there are a few bugs in Twitter that allow you to view anyone’s updates (even those marked private), I think it’s overblown. I still find it funny that people (a) think they can be private on-line, and (b) don’t just censor themselves if they don’t want people to see it. I can be somewhat crass and vulgar, but I don’t share it with the world.


    • Ha! I knew if anyone would know a way to see private Twitter updates, it was going to be you. That totally proves the point here: nothing is private. I totally agree with you that people should censor what they put online.


  4. Nisha, I’m glad you’ve continued the conversation over here because it’s such an interesting topic. I think that privatizing your Twitter is a bad idea. Twitter, just isn’t about that. I believe in the connections you make on Twitter and that you should be able to still be authentic and express yourself. If it weren’t for Twitter or our public blogs, we wouldn’t have connected and I wouldn’t be here today creating this awesome dialogue!


    • Yeah…perhaps it’s because a lot of the people using Twitter so far don’t understand it and think they should make it private like Facebook (although I see less and less need to even make Facebook private anymore..) I agree that people should express themselves, but if expressing yourself entails posting something that could get you in trouble, people shouldn’t post it in the first place.


  5. @Andy, I don’t think Twitter is an introvert/extrovert thing. Sometimes introverts find it easier to interact online rather than face-to-face.

    @Nisha, I think we’re on the same page. Protecting your updates is really limiting and really just shuts you off from probably the most valuable part of the social network!! But I guess people use Twitter for a variety of reasons, I have some friends who only use it for news updates and don’t post their own updates. That is not a way I am inclined to use it, but whatever…


    • I have a lot of friends like that too, who don’t post anything but want to read what other people post on Twitter. I have other friends who think its just status updates and wonder why it’s such a phenomenon. Sometimes I think no amount of articles or explanations can get to them….


  6. I don’t understand the point of doing this either because it doesn’t make sense to do so for all of the reasons that you stated. The whole purpose of Twitter to me is to communicate. If you privatize your account you are (whether this is your intention or not) shutting out the chance to meet new people.

    Nisha, I totally hear you on trying to explain Twitter to people. I literally just finished having a conversation with a friend who isn’t using Twitter. It finally ended with me telling them to set up an account and let me know if you have questions, but I know you will figure it out.” If nothing else trying to explain Twitter will help you gain patience!


  7. It’s weird how Twitter has established such an ‘exclusive’ community. What I mean by that is, non-Twitter users see it as a glorified Facebook status update (I fell into this category only a few months ago before I jumped on the bandwagon). But those of us who are engrossed in the community realize the networking power Twitter has – the potential is essentially endless. Go figure that we can network, establish business connections, and make friends in 140 characters or less. But Twitter allows for an almost instantaneous personal connection.

    But to those who haven’t bought in – there’s really no way to explain it to them. And for those who privatize updates, I’m not really sure what they want to get out of it. People need to be more open and realize that transparency is key in maximizing the Twitter-potential!


  8. I thought your explanation of the different between Twitter and Facebook was perfect. It also helps explain why high school students don’t use Twitter – it’s supposed to be public and many high school students just want to talk to friends privately via social networking. I work for a small college and sometimes it’s hard to explain why, for example, the admissions office probably shouldn’t invest time in Twitter – or at least not yet.


  9. I think people who use twitter with private account should go back to facebook.

    And why twitt something so secret at twitter anyway? Also it’s just retaded to fire some one over a twitt..


  10. Smart logic…


  11. I chose to keep my twitter account private as those who are the most interested in who I am and what I have to say will find it easy to ask. I have nothing to hide and nothing private or obscene to share. You never gave any real reason for me to go public… shaming just doesn’t carry any weight! Give me better reasons!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


    • As someone who has had problems with an online stalker, I have to say that your judgmental attitude doesn’t take into account a LOT of factors that users have to consider. Assuming that the only reason people privatize their accounts is to hide posts they’re ashamed of is inaccurate. It’s not wrong to want to protect yourself from abuse online. I can keep up with friends who use Twitter without having to worry about my internet stalker continuing to harass me if I keep my account private.

      Also, I don’t have to worry about a constant barrage of spam on my timeline this way.

      Regardless, I’m not one to cast aspersions at people who make different choices than I do, or tell them how “dumb” they’re being.


      • P.S. My reply addresses the initial post.


  12. I like what you say about, “If you think the things you post online could potentially get you in trouble, why post them online in the first place?” This is so true.


  13. I set mine on private. For me it is not “censoring myself” or “disconnecting myself” from the world. I am a teacher, and you know students and parents try to find out everything about you. For me, I don’t want to be “watched” all day. We all need a private life, even if this private life is on the internet.

    It is the same reason that big stars don’t tell everyone what their twitter name is. They don’t want everyone watching them and criticizing their every move.


  14. Catholic Nerd, I can understand that. Teachers definitely need to be careful.


  15. For me, having my twitter protected gave me a sense of control. I liked having control over who say my stuff, but it did cut me off from being on listings where people in my profession could find me. I ended up taking off the protection. I have been inundated with people following me, some of whom caused me to raise my eyebrows and feel uncomfortable, but I’m trying to deal.


  16. Read some of your posts Nisha,

    Awesome…..

    Great going… I am always in awe of such successful bloggers.!!



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