This story began when Laura and Eileen (not their real names) decided to take advantage of the recent Supreme Court ruling clearing the way for same-sex marriage.
They wanted to have a nice, private wedding, and then in about six months have that blow-out bash they’d earned.
So they trekked down to City Hall, signed the papers, said their “I do’s,” kissed, and became legal spouses. They had a little celebratory lunch, popped a bottle of bubbly and basked for the day. Quietly.
But when they got home, Eileen decided that—what the heck—she’d update her Facebook profile to reflect her new status. That evening, she went into her settings and clicked on the button that said “Married.”
And then you can guess what happened.
Right. Not so quiet any more.
Facebook outed her.
Because these days, that’s what our social networks do: They sing like canaries, not only allowing people to snoop in on us but actively broadcasting our business to our networks.
Changed your job? LinkedIn sends out an announcement. Have a birthday you’d rather forget? Too bad. Wanted to keep your pregnancy secret as long as possible? Sorry, accidental bump pictures on Instagram don’t lie.
Unless you tweak your privacy settings (and seriously, how many of us do that?) these networks make it their business to tell the world your business. Just check out Facebook’s own “privacy” policy.
No sooner did Eileen change her profile than a big heart showed up on her timeline: “Got Married.”
So much for doing it quietly.
In poured the well wishes. It’s not like it was a surprise these two got married. They’re the kind of couple that everyone knew would tie the knot sooner or later. It was a foregone conclusion. And they had, after all, been together for nearly a decade. They just weren’t legally allowed to marry before. It all made sense.
But still, between the congratulatory notes, one could detect the whiff of hurt. The “wow, that’s great… but why wasn’t I invited?” No one actually said it, of course, but it’s a natural response.
Eileen handled it with panache, addressed it head-on with a note explaining her faux pas. (Should we call it a Face-pas?)
“Dear friends and family, I probably should have thought through the communication with all of you all a little more carefully,” she wrote. She continued that she thought she was making a “nearly imperceptible” change in status. She graciously explained that they had wed and planned a celebratory bash in a year.
But it could have been worse. It could just as easily have been something a little less festive than the wedding of two people in love: a divorce, a layoff, an unflattering or compromising picture posted.
If you don’t want social networks to send personal updates on your behalf, do yourself a favor: Go check out your privacy settings. Or better yet, just accept that anything you post online can and probably will become public at some point.
Janet Kornblum is a writer and media trainer based in San Francisco. She’s probably tweaking her Facebook settings right now. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo via NobMouse/Flickr