How do I know if my friends are private?

In today’s digital world, with social media being such a big part of our lives, it can be challenging to know just how private our friends really are online. We may think we know our closest friends well, but how much do we truly know about their online activity? Are they sharing private details publicly without us realizing? Here are some quick tips to help you spot signs that your friends may not be as private as you think:

Look at their social media privacy settings – Do they share posts publicly or just with friends? The more public the settings, the less private they’re being.

Pay attention to the content they post – Are they oversharing personal details like relationship problems or family issues?

Check their friend/follower counts – A very high number of connections may indicate they’re not being selective about who sees their content.

Look for location check-ins – Frequent, specific check-ins can reveal their current or typical whereabouts.

See what others are posting about them – Tags, photos, and comments from others may share information they wouldn’t post themselves.

Consider how often they’re posting – Frequent updates with personal information spread over multiple platforms can overexpose their lives.

Why Does Private Matter for Friendships?

Having private friends matters for a few key reasons:

Preserving intimacy

Some details are meant to just be between close friends, and oversharing to a broad online audience can erode that sense of intimacy in friendships.

Avoiding safety risks

Posting too many personal details publicly could make someone more vulnerable to identity theft, stalking, or other safety risks.

Presenting an authentic self

We only see one side of someone when their entire life is on public display online. Private friends help us see a fuller, more authentic version of someone.

Building trust

Being more selective about sharing shows care and consideration in friendships. It demonstrates that someone values your privacy too.

Signs Your Friends May Be Oversharing Online

Here are some red flags that a friend may be less private than you realized:

They post constantly

Frequently posting minor day-to-day details across multiple platforms indicates oversharing. Social media should complement friendships, not dominate them.

They share intimate relationship details

Venting about romantic partners publicly or posting specifics about fights, no matter how vague, crosses a line for most people.

They geo-tag locations

Constantly tagging precise locations on posts reveals patterns about where they live, work, and hang out.

They accept followers indiscriminately

Having lax filters on who can follow or access their accounts means they’re less concerned about privacy.

They post privately without permission

Sharing others’ photos, details about plans, or intimate conversations without consent is a major red flag.

They overshare when drinking

Alcohol lowers inhibitions, so be wary of friends prone to spilling too much on social media after some drinks.

How to Approach Friends About Privacy Concerns

If you spot signs a friend may be oversharing online, here are some tips for addressing it sensitively:

Have the conversation privately

Discuss your concerns one-on-one rather than calling them out publicly. Meet in person if possible.

Use “I” statements

Explain how their posting makes you feel rather than accusing or blaming them.

Give specific examples

Provide a few clear instances that worry you so they understand the behavior you’re referencing.

Come from a place of care

Make it clear your concern comes from care and wanting to preserve your friendship’s intimacy.

Suggest social media breaks

Propose taking occasional breaks from posting and social media together to reset boundaries.

Share your own experience

If you’ve faced similar struggles, opening up can help them feel less judged.

Listen to their perspective

There may be other factors at play, so listen openly to why they share the way they do.

Respect their autonomy

You can raise concerns, but ultimately it is their choice what they post. Don’t control or shame them.

Offer to help increase privacy

Volunteer to walk them through adjusting social media settings and online privacy if they’re open to it.

Setting Boundaries Around Private Information

To help keep your friendship more private after addressing oversharing concerns, consider these boundaries:

Agree not to vent publicly about each other

Commit to keeping details of arguments, disagreements, etc. between just the two of you.

Limit tagging each other

Only tag one another in posts you both explicitly approve to prevent overexposure.

Obtain consent before posting about plans

Ask permission before posting about private outings or activities to respect each other’s privacy.

Keep some conversations offline

Choose more sensitive or intimate topics to discuss privately rather than through texting or social media.

Delete posts at the other’s request

Have an agreement to remove content if the other person later decides it overshares.

Disable location tracking when together

Temporarily turning off location tagging prevents inadvertently disclosing you were together.

Keep some details just between you

Agree there should be an element of intimacy and privacy reserved for your one-on-one friendship.

Maintaining Privacy In Person

In addition to setting online boundaries, you can also take steps in your in-person friendship to prioritize privacy:

Have phone-free hangouts

Leave phones behind for some quality time together without distractions or temptations to post.

Don’t push for details they avoid sharing

Respect their right not to disclose certain private matters if they choose not to.

Ask before sharing their information with others

Seek permission before revealing details about them or stories that involve them to additional friends.

Keep their confidences private

If they confide in you, don’t break their trust by repeating it without consent.

Hide private possessions when hosting

Discreetly tidy financial documents, prescriptions, etc. to avoid inadvertently exposing info when they visit.

Discuss adding privacy settings at home

Consider smart home adjustments like camera settings and voice assistant features that prioritize privacy.

Limit inquiries about location

Unless necessary for coordinating plans, avoid frequently asking for details about where they are, who they’re with, etc.

Preserving Privacy in Different Friendship Dynamics

Approaches to privacy may need to be adapted based on the unique dynamic of each friendship:

Childhood friends

Expect to protect long-held secrets and understand sensitivities based on knowing each other’s entire lives.

Close best friends

Extra intimacy may lead to oversharing so discretion is especially important.

Friends you see rarely

Infrequent contact means allowing more public posting since less is shared privately between visits.

New friends

Take time to learn appropriate boundaries as you build trust and don’t assume details can be posted.

Friends you met online

Be very cautious sharing offline details or meeting up at first until establishing legitimate friendship.

Friends going through major life events

Give extra latitude if they overshare during emotional times like breakups, new babies, deaths, etc.

Friends with substance abuse issues

Set clear guidelines around inappropriate intoxicated posting and removing regrettable content later.

Navigating Privacy as Friendships Evolve

Privacy needs often change over time as friendships grow and life stages shift:

Getting into a relationship

Couples may post frequently at first about the new relationship but often become more private as the relationship matures.

Changing jobs

Friends may share more about their work life when starting a new job but learn to keep proprietary company information private over time.

Having kids

Parenting involves a huge learning curve about kids’ privacy so give friends grace as they figure out new boundaries.

Buying a home

Friends newly excited about homeownership may over-post at first without realizing the security risks of revealing too much.

Coping with illness

Health conditions can inspire oversharing vulnerability at first before learning what level of disclosure is healthiest.

Going through divorce

This emotional time often leads to regretted oversharing that friends must be patient in guiding through.

Entering retirement

Life changes like retirement take adjusting privacy settings to keep personal data secure after leaving work contacts behind.

Preserving Privacy When Social Circles Overlap

Navigating privacy gets extra tricky when different friend groups intersect online and offline:

Keep venting contained

Venting should stay within the friendship where it originated rather than being shared across groups.

Limit inside jokes

References or nicknames others won’t get can exclude members of a mixed group.

Get permission before inviting new connections

Ask before linking two friends from different circles since they may know private details about each other.

Stay silent if exposed to secrets

If you learn a private detail about someone, keep it to yourself even if you’re with others who know the person.

Reveal only basic biographical details

When introducing friends from separate circles, share only basic public information about each of them.

Remain vague if asked for private information

If asked something private with mixed company, deflect by saying you’d rather discuss it one-on-one.

Redirect sensitive conversations

If private matters come up with mixed friends, gently steer the discussion to less sensitive topics.

Respecting Privacy as Friendships Fade

Even when friendships start to fade, you still have an obligation to maintain their privacy:

Keep past secrets confidential

Never share private details about them from when you were closer just because you’re no longer friends.

Delete old messages and photos

Remove any compromising digital communication and images you may still have saved from the friendship.

Return or destroy private belongings

If you have any of their personal items or paperwork, return or destroy them responsibly.

Don’t post details about the falling out

Void venting about arguments or the end of your friendship online, even vaguely.

Remove tags linking you

Delete any connections like relationship tags and photos linking you on profiles.

Don’t share private information with new friends

Your new friends don’t need access to private details about someone who is no longer in your life.

Keep any remaining mutual friends out of it

Don’t criticize them to the friends you still share or force those friends to “pick sides.”

Tell mutual connections not to share details

Ask shared connections to respect both of your privacy and not spread private information.


Preserving privacy in friendships ultimately comes down to having empathy, respecting boundaries, and communicating clearly as needs and circumstances change. With trust and mutual care, you can find the right balance of intimacy and discretion to protect your friendship. Keep listening, have patience as friends navigate privacy learning curves, and don’t be afraid to speak up compassionately if you feel your boundaries are being crossed. With some thoughtfulness on both sides, you can maintain healthy privacy within even your closest friendships in this sharing-based digital era.

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