Identity and Content Reflection

Platforms should allow users to preview their content and profiles from multiple privacy levels to allow for more control over how they are seen by different types of users.

How does this mitigate hate?

By clearly reflecting to a person how their content and profiles will be seen on a social platform, control is given to the them to proactively adjust their privacy levels and boost security. This gives peace of mind as well as a sense of control for the user to make context-based changes to their content and profiles. This pattern also makes it easier for users to create and maintain boundaries between their personal and professional circles online while retaining the audiences they have cultivated.

(A major chunk of this pattern is from Designing Social Interfaces by Erin Malone and Christian Crumlish)


When to use it?

A user should be able to easily preview how their identities and content are seen from different audiences, such as friends, close communities, or the general public. Platforms must clearly communicate to users, in real time, the implications of the changes they are making as they adjust their security and privacy settings so that users can adjust as necessary.

Platforms should allow users to easily see how their content and profiles are experienced by other users while creating content, editing their identities or posted content, engaging online, or in their account settings. Users should be able to view their content and identities from multiple perspectives, ranging from close friends to the general public.

Usage scenarios:

Use wherever a user may engage online to enable them to see how their content and identity are being viewed.

As a checklist step prior to posting

As an option when a user wants to change their profile settings

How to use it?

The user should be able to preview their content and profiles from different audiences such as:

– Close friends
– Friends
– Friends of friends
– General public

The user should be able to change these visibility levels for specific posts, as well as select a default visibility option in the settings.


YouTube offers a video preview link prior to publishing to review the content from a public perspective. (screenshot taken May 2022)

Facebook offers users the ability to view their profile and content as one of their accounts. This is important if a person manages pages for communities or has a business and wants to differentiate what they post by who posts it. This feature allows a quick toggle without having to log out and log back in as the other account. (screenshot taken May 2022)


Crumlish, Christian, and Erin Malone. Designing Social Interfaces : Principles, Patterns, and Practices for Improving the User Experience. 2nd ed. Sebastopol, Ca: O’Reilly Media, Inc., August, 2015. Chapter 4, Reflectors, pp. 140-144

Vilk, Viktorya, Elodie Vialle, and Matt Bailey. “No Excuse for Abuse: What Social Media Companies Can Do Now to Combat Online Harassment and Empower Users.” Edited by Summer Lopez and Suzanne Nossel. PEN AMERICA. PEN America, March 31, 2021.


Written in collaboration with PEN America