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If you’re like most Facebook users, you don’t often think about how the content of the posts you’re putting up today might affect you later. After all, with nearly 2 billion users on Facebook, your posts will be lost in the billions of others that are published every day.
However, sometime in the future, you might have reason to question the wisdom of posting everything that comes to your mind on Facebook. You might want to apply for a new job and worry about your employer perusing through your timeline to find something embarrassing. You might be engaged in activism and fear grudge holders looking for an excuse to defame you. Or you might want to run for office and fear what critics and the media will dig out from your Facebook history.
At that point, you might consider limiting the reach and audience of the more personal content you share. When posting on Facebook, you can choose to share it with the public (i.e. the entire world), your friends or a subset of your friends, or yourself (personal mind notes).
The “Friends except…” and “Specific friends” options are especially useful if your Facebook friends span beyond your circle of family and close friends.
Fortunately, since 2014, Facebook’s default setting for new posts is to share with friends. However, in case your posts are still defaulting to Public, you can fix it by going to Privacy Settings page and changing the “Who can see your future posts?” setting to Friends.
What if you’re in doubt of what your past posts contain? One thing you can do is to go through your timeline and change the setting for individual posts that you would like to conceal from public audience.
However, if you don’t have the time or patience to go through years’ worth of posts and changing the setting for every individual post, you can use the “Limit Past Posts” command in the Privacy settings.
This one-click setting will change all your public posts to be viewed by friends only. This video from the Electronic Frontier Foundation provides a step-by-step tutorial for changing the privacy settings of past posts:
There are a couple of caveats to using the one-click privacy settings.
- As Facebook will warn you, the Limit Past Posts setting is irreversible. Once you apply it, you won’t be able to undo it, and if you want to make some of your posts public, you’ll have to do so individually.
- If you’ve tagged a non-friend person in your post, they’ll still be able to see it after you change the privacy settings.
- This setting does not alter posts that have been shared with custom audiences
Finally, you should know that you can only control the visibility of your own posts. If others tag you in their posts, they’ll decide who the audience will be—which means, perhaps, you should share this article with your friends.
Ben Dickson is a software engineer and founder of TechTalks. His work has been published by TechCrunch, VentureBeat, the Next Web, PC Magazine, Huffington Post, and Motherboard, among others.