Facebook is taking Google head on over search, as I mentioned the other day, and there's now a new piece of search functionality that you need to be aware of. You also may need to check your settings. You can now search back through your old posts for things you mentioned in a status update. But wait, there's more - you can also search through your friends old status updates as well, and this is where it might all end in tears.
However let's start at the beginning. This feature is rolling out, so you'll know when you get it because you'll get a message to tell you that. Until then, you'll have to wait I'm afraid - I don't know of any way to hurry this up; someone did say that you can change your language setting to English(US) but it didn't seem to work for me. When you get it, you can start searching in Facebook as usual, but you need to be careful as to the option you choose to click on. I tried a search for Rusty (my dog) and the first option that came up was a guy called Rusty Tee, and Facebook automatically took me to a search result for him. I had to scroll down to the bottom of the suggestions pane to force Facebook into searching just exactly for my search term.
I can obviously continue to scroll down and look at more of my posts. It's a great tool, because it lets me find stuff that was otherwise - apparently - lost for all time, but we must never forget that Facebook forgets nothing. I can also extend my search by clicking on some of the other options at the top of the results - people, photos, pages, places and so on. I'll then get a great collection of the photographs of my dog that I've posted, before seeing other 'rusty' images that are nothing to do with me.
So, at this point - it's an excellent search tool. It's also very helpful because I can also search for other material as well - suppose that I remember a library Facebook page has referenced a particular author in the past, I can do a search for the name of the library, plus the author name and see all of the posts that match my search. Facebook also does a nice synonym search as well, which is very handy. Still ok, nothing wrong with that, but let's go to the next stage. If I want to find out just how potty mouthed a friend of mine is, I can do a search for their name and the naughty word I'm looking for, to see just how often they've included it. I can do that for pretty much anything else as well - do you want your friends to be able to track back through your Facebook history to see how many times you've admitted that you've been drunk on a school night? No, I thought not.
But that's how the tool works - if you are friends with someone you can do exactly that. Now on the one hand, that's no big deal, because if you've shared that information with your friends already, you probably don't care that much - except that I can now slice and dice that information however I want to, which probably wasn't your intention. Now, before you freak out entirely, I can't do this with people that I'm not friends with so it could be worse. I'm not alltogether sure that I can use it much for public posts - I did a search for Manchester Libraries "book club" but the results that I got back weren't very helpful, though a search for "Manchester Libraries" "book club" worked a little bit better, although Facebook wasn't taking much interest in my phrase search.
Once I start searching back through my friends material though, that's a whole different ball game. It's not quite so straightforward though, because if you have shared a post that contains the word 'widget' but you haven't actually said it yourself, it'll still come up in the results. So, if you do a search for a certain 'f' word, your friends may appear to be rather more filthily mouthed than you think if they have ever shared a post from the 'I f*ing like science' page. (There's that useful synonym search function in action again.)
Now, if you're getting uncomfortable about this, there is a setting that you can change. You need to go to your privacy settings and choose the option 'Limit the audience for posts you've shared with friends of friends or Public?' as shown below:
This isn't a new option by the way, it's been around for a while, but this might be the first time you really want to think about using it. If you decide to go down this route you'll get this warning:
I stopped at this point, because I wasn't bothered, but you'll need to be clear that this is exactly what you want to do. You might want to take a look at the previous option, 'Review all your posts and things you're tagged in' to see if that is a better option for you. However, whichever way you go, in order to get rid of that embarassing status update, you're going to have to do some work. The other alternative is to do a search for yourself and your preferred search term(s) that you'd rather people didn't see and delete those updates a status at a time. Still a lot of work.
So - on a personal level this might be a bit freaky. On a work level - it's a very useful option that will help people find your stuff quickly and easily. This dichotomy isn't surprising, as Facebook is developing well beyond the idea of 'friends' into a fully grown commercial and professional environment.