Teens Find Innovative Ways to Control Their Facebook Presence

Ever heard of "Super-logoff" or "whitewalling"? They are ways to designate what some teens have been doing in order to have total control over who posts what (and when) on their Facebook page.

Ever heard of “Super-logoff” or “whitewalling”? They are ways to designate what some teens have been doing in order to have total control over who posts what (and when) on their Facebook page.

Imagine deactivating your account every time you log out of Facebook, and activating it again when you want to go on it. Or how about meticulously erasing each and every post, status update, link, or comment after you are “done” sharing it? If you take the Super-logoff route, then other people can’t post anything on your wall when you’re not there to filter it quickly. They won’t even be able to look you up. Whitewalling, on the other hand, keeps your Facebook content invariably current, of the moment.

At first, like social media researcher danah boyd (like that, all lowercase) points out, these Facebook habits might seem a bit over-the-top and perhaps unnecessary. And yet, they can make sense in certain high-pressure contexts. High school or ultra-sneaky work environments might be the kind of places where your Facebook activity can cost you a lot of peace of mind. Take high-schooler Mikalah’s reasoning for deactivating her profile every time she’s not online:

Mikalah uses Facebook but when she goes to log out, she deactivates her Facebook account. She knows that this doesn’t delete the account – that’s the point. She knows that when she logs back in, she’ll be able to reactivate the account and have all of her friend connections back. But when she’s not logged in, no one can post messages on her wall or send her messages privately or browse her content.

Notice that, while you or I might think that spending five minutes setting your privacy settings correctly might solve the hassle of having to deactivate your account when you log out, in reality these are two actions that accomplish different things. Mikalah and others like her want their friends to post stuff on their wall or tag them in a photo, but they don’t want them doing it when they’re not there to make sure it’s okay. Most importantly, someone like Mikalah doesn’t want any friends of friends digging up her profile when she’s not “around.” Deactivating her page literally erases her from Facebook. She becomes untraceable.

(I admit that for the purpose of this post I tried Super-loggingoff, and Super Failed. As the above picture shows, when I got to the final step, two things held me back: 1) as irrational as it may sound, the idea of actually “confirming” the deactivation did give me the sensation that I was about to lose my stuff 2) the thought of having to do these two steps every time I log in or out of FB was simply too laborious. For me, of course.)

As for whitewalling, it could come in handy if you’re one to run your mouth or get into heated discussions frequently. It might not be the equivalent of deactivating your account, but you make sure that everything stays “in the moment” and that the past doesn’t come back to haunt you. Like boyd puts it, whitewalling is basically giving the middle finger to Facebook “as a data retention agent.”

Is reducing the risk of people posting unwanted content on your profile worth using these techniques? What stuff do you regularly do to keep your Facebook “clean”?

You can read danah boyd’s entire blog post here.