Is There a Gender Issue with Facebook Places?

BlogHer Original Post

I'll do anything for BlogHer; even try out Facebook Places. I resisted Foursquare and Gowalla and other similar services, but when BlogHer asked me to report on Facebook Places, I couldn't say no.

First, I'll explain how to use it. Then I'll describe how reactions to it have split along gender lines. Finally, I'll tell you how to deal with privacy settings for this new Facebook service.

How to Use Facebook Places

Start with the Facebook app on your GPS enabled smart phone. You'll see the new Places icon in the Facebook options.

Facebook Places

When you choose Places, it may ask to use your location. It may ask for a zip code. Eventually, it offers you a list of nearby places based on your current location. You select the one where you are. You can add a comment about the place if you want.

Facebook places now in my profile

The first place I shared was Sandia Chile Grill. (They make a great burrito there, but I didn't mention it.) It immediately appeared in my list of Places on my smart phone. It also appeared on my Wall in the browser-based Facebook application. Only my friends could see it because of previous privacy settings I'd made on Facebook.

In addition to my friends being able to see where I was, my friends could tag me to say that I was in the same place they were. Even if I didn't know they were doing it.

You need to do more than depend on your previous privacy settings for Places, but we'll get to that in a minute.

If you need more details about how to use Places, check out A Field Guide to Using Facebook Places by Jolie O'Dell or Facebook Places Tells Friends Where You Are - Here's How it Works by Josh Kirschner.

Reactions Split Along Gender Lines

Only a few hours after Places was announced, it became clear that men and women felt differently about it. Men were enthusiastic about how great Places was. The post I mentioned by Josh Kirschner is an example, and see Jason Kincaid's first report on Places at TechCrunch, too. He complains that it's confusing, but doesn't suggest you might not want to use it at all. (Kincaid's post has been updated a couple of times with some clarifications that are important about how Places works.)

Women, on the other hand, were posting articles such as Facebook Places: What it is, how you can opt out and Does the internet really need me to check in?, both by Whitney Drake. Facebook Places Outrage by MamaPop, Facebook Places = pleaserobme.com by written inc., The Deal with Facebook Places & Privacy in English by Liz Gannes and How to Almost Sabotage a Dinner Party with Facebook Places at Advertising Age are other negative reactions from women.

Apart from the guys who saw something new and cool and gals who worried about privacy and safety, the third reaction I saw was to the business potential for small business owners that comes with Places. Use Facebook Places to Boost Business and Lift Sales at Entrepreneur.com and Earn Travel Rewards for Checking into Facebook Places by Jennifer Van Grove are examples of that reaction.

How to Deal with Privacy in Places

If you want to use Places, you need to get into your Facebook privacy settings and make some decisions about options that weren't there before.

You'll see a Places I Check Into in the menu. Mine was set by default to friends only because of some previous privacy settings I'd chosen. But that's not enough if you really want to be careful.

Facebook Privacy Settings 1

Make sure you have selected Custom in the menu on the left, then click the Customize Settings link.

Start with the "Things I Share" choices. Here you see the option to pick who can see the Places you've checked into, and the option that lets anyone else who is in the same place see that you are there.

Facebook Privacy Settings 2

If you don't want people who are in the same location as you to know you are there, deselect the "People Here Now" option.

Then move down the page to the "Things Others Share" choices. If you don't want Friends to share where you are, select disable for "Friends Can Check Me in to Places."

Facebook Privacy 3

More resources for setting privacy options on Facebook Places can be found at Gawker and Beth's Blog.

Lifehacker has an article explaining how to disable Places completely in your Facebook account. SheGeeks has a high-level look at the overall trends in location based services in Mobile News Wave: Facebook Places, Foursquare, and Google.

Virginia DeBolt
Web Teacher | First 50 Words

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