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How to filter friends (and others) in Facebook

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  macslocum's Photo
Posted Mar 23 2010 05:04 AM

When it comes to Facebook, do you unfriend or filter? It's funny how a question that had zero relevance five years ago is now so important. Anecdotally, I know a number of people who have really struggled with the unfriend decision. It just feels so ... harsh.

But there's a kinder, gentler and sneakier option: the filter.

A filter is a great way to reduce a particular person's chatter or access, but still remain friends with that individual in a Facebook sense (whether you should stay friends with them elsewhere is a question best left for therapists). Filtering is also useful for parents, colleagues, bosses, exes, and anyone else who warrants admission to your social graph but must be kept at arm's length.

Set up a Facebook list

To build a filter, the first thing you need to do is create a new Facebook list. Here's the steps for doing that as outlined in "Facebook: The Missing Manual, Second Edition:"

1. At the top right of any Facebook page, click the Account link and then click Edit Friends.

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2. On the left side of the page that appears, click the All Connections link.

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3. On the page that appears, click the Create New List button.

4. In the "Enter a Name" field of the box that appears, type in a name for your list and then hit enter.

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5. Add some friends to your list. The easiest way is to click the thumbnail pictures of the people you want to add to your list. Alternatively, you can click in the "Start Typing a name" field and type in names one at a time.

6. When you finish, click Create List.

Configure privacy settings

Next, you need to set permissions for the list. Facebook doesn't make this easy. You have to back your way in through Facebook's privacy settings.

7. Go to Account and select Privacy Settings.

8. Click Profile Information on the next page.

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9. This is where things get tricky. Facebook gives you granular control over every element of your Facebook experience -- personal details, what you post, what other people post about you, etc.

The downside to all this control is you'll need to assign permissions on an element-by-element basis. That can be confusing. You'll want to carefully read the description beneath each element to figure out the appropriate settings.

The good news: Actually setting the privacy is simple.

Click on the drop-down menus to the right of each privacy element. Select Custom.

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10. In the "Hide this from" area, begin typing the name of the list you created earlier. It should automatically populate after a few letters. Click Save Setting. Repeat this same process for each of the privacy settings you want to change.

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One last thing ...

Facebook has a great feature that lets you preview your profile through a friend's eyes. This is nice because you see exactly what is and is not visible. To access this tool, go to Account and click on Privacy Settings. On the next page, click on Profile Information. You'll then see a button on the upper-right side of the page that reads Preview my Profile. Click it.

At the very top of the next page you'll see the following toolbar:

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Type in a friend's name, click enter, and you'll get a look at your profile as viewed by that particular friend. You can double-back to the privacy settings if you need to make further refinements (i.e. Mom can see your personal details, but photos are off-limits ...).

Facebook: The Missing Manual

Learn more about this topic from Facebook: The Missing Manual.

This bestselling Missing Manual has been updated to help you take advantage of everything Facebook now offers. Each page in this informative and entertaining book is designed to help you with specific Facebook tasks, such as signing up, networking, shopping, joining groups, finding or filling a job, and a whole lot more.

See what you'll learn

1 Reply

 : Mar 25 2010 12:10 PM
Excellent tip, Mac! I love the idea of filtering the noise. I just wish there was something like this across the board for all my social networking accounts. That would be a great use of a Google profile page. Hook them all up and filter the noise. Love it.