Facebook Sanity primer

Slight updates in italics – January 25, 2017

I was supposed to be at an improv doubleheader tonight, but Nature had other ideas.  I mean, really, an inch of snow in Richmond and the city all but shuts down?  I can’t wait until we get a real storm… I’ll have to lay in supplies for a month…

Anyway, since I found myself with time on my hands, I had a little more time to spend on other pursuits, and after seeing the occasional comment about how hard it is to keep track of things (all the things!) on Facebook, I thought I’d share some things I’ve done to make Facebook work for me instead of against me.   Here goes (this is an overview to avoid having the post grow out of control, feel free to ask me about anything I mention).

  • Trim your friend list.  Really, you have 2500 friends?  I mean, if you do, more power to you.  You’re awesome.  But you simply can’t follow 2500 people.  The signal-to-noise ratio in your News Feed must be lower than Lance Armstrong’s credibility.  So the first step to taming Facebook is the obvious one.  Lose the fat on your friends list.  As of this posting, I have 185 friends (four years later, it’s up to 405.  Wow.).  I try to make my Facebook friends list reflect the people who I most want to keep in touch with – not everyone I’ve ever met (and all of their friends).  Think about dumping the people you friended because you met them in a bar one night just before last call.  Just sayin’.
  • Trim your likes, too.  “Like” only those pages you really want to know more about – and unlike pages as soon as they lose their value.  For example, if you have to like a page to enter a contest, unlike it as soon as the contest is over.
  • Get an unfriend tracker.  I use Social Fixer, because it is a full-featured toolkit to clean up the visual mess that Facebook can leave on your screen.  But if you want just a tracker, consider Unfriend Finder.  After all, Facebook is thrilled to tell you when you have a new friend, but feels it’s a privacy thing not to tell you when someone pitches you overboard?  Feh.  Both Social Fixer and Unfriend Finder download your friend list each time you open Facebook and compare it to the last copy — then let you know what changed.  This may make Facebook load slower if you have 2500 friends…   This has changed considerably in the last 4 years, so instead…
  • Get a Facebook formatter.  Social Fixer no longer checks your friend list – the function may come back in a future update.  For now, though, it will hide News Feed posts you don’t want to see, track the ones you’ve read (if you want), and clean up some of Facebook’s more egregious formatting options.  If you want all that plus an unfriend finder, look to Fluff Busting (FB) Purity instead.  They are similar in that they are browser add-ons that interact with Facebook’s awful code to make it better.
  • Use Facebook’s default lists.  The dirty little secret Facebook doesn’t want you to know is this – while the News Feed tries to predict what you want to see, lists show you everything.  Facebook has three default lists you might want to start using:
    • Close Friends – these are the people you want to see a lot more of.  Their posts rise more rapidly in your News Feed, and the Close Friends list shows you all of their actions (including new friends, comments on posts, and likes).
    • Acquaintances – I’ve used this for people who are compulsive sharers.  You know, the friends who are liable to take over your News Feed if you let them.  Their posts sink lower on the News Feed, but you can click over to Acquaintances to see everything they’ve been doing.
    • Restricted – this allows you to keep some friends at arms’ length.  You’ll barely see them in the News Feed, and they will only see your public posts (but they’ll never know any better).
  • Use your own lists.  Lists are free.  Make as many as you need.  I have a shadow News Feed that includes all of my friends, so I can see all of their shared activity.  Is that stalking?  Not when it’s 185 people!  I also have lists by common interests, so (for example) all my improv-community friends are in one list — which came in handy about a month ago so I could focus on the news I wanted without any other interruptions.
  • Like a Facebook security page.  I use Facecrooks and the BULLDOG Estate, but there are a few others.  This is where you’ll quickly learn whether or not that Facebook Page Color app is a scam (it always is) and get quick tips on removing the rogue app you accidentally added.  The BULLDOG Estate got too combative for its own good and left Facebook.  Facecrooks is still the best resource for Facebook scam warnings.
  • Like an Internet security page.  I use Naked Security from Sophos.  There are real security issues in the real world that will impact your Facebook usage — when Java or Flash or Internet Explorer is compromised, Facebook is one way for the bad guys to get to you.  Use a site like Sophos so you know when it’s time to patch your browser.
  • Use common sense.  I use snopes.com and ThatsNonsense.com.  Really, when you see something weird, bizarre, or outrageous on Facebook, don’t share it without verifying it on a reliable website.  Why mess with your good name by forwarding nonsense?
  • Check your settings.  Look over the Privacy Settings and make sure you know exactly what you’re sharing, and with whom.  Make some time to give the settings pages a thorough going-over.  You won’t regret it.  (A full privacy overview is beyond the scope of this post by a mile – the folks at lifehacker.com keep an always-updated guide that you might want to link to).

And two bonus suggestions that don’t impact me directly, but that have impacted friends:

  • Don’t friend your old account from your new one (if you’re changing accounts).  Really.  Here’s why.  If you are closing your old account in order to get away from someone or something, and you friend your old account with your new one — well, your new account is now a “mutual friend” of everyone on your old account, including whoever you’re trying to get the clean break from.  Now sure, you can deny their friend request on the new account, but why make it so easy to be found again?
  • Don’t mix work and play.  This is aimed mostly at my performing friends (radio, wrestling, comedy).  Too many of you guys are trying to use the same page to communicate with your fans and your friends.  BAD BAD BAD idea.  Keep in mind that Facebook Pages are easy to set up and not that hard to maintain.  You’d want to have a friend page (Timeline) for your real friends, and a Page for your fans.  Not only can you separate your off-stage life from your on-stage, Pages don’t have the 5000-friend limit that Timelines have.  If you ever get really popular, you’ll have to split your fans off anyway – so do it now before you’re a superstar…

So there you go – some ideas on how to make Facebook valuable instead of a drag on your time.   Yes, it will involve some work to set up, but once you do, you can focus on what interests you and cut the clutter.

And if you think I’m part of the clutter… 🙂 that’s OK.  I’ve been called worse.

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Author: Rob Hoffmann

Occasional blogger, full-time computer techie, radio producer (basketball, mostly), generally nice person (if you ask me).

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