I’ve had a very similar conversation with several friends (real-life friends, in this case) regarding Facebook. The basic flow of the conversation is this.
1. When I started Facebook, I had only real friends on my list.
2. Since I like keeping in touch with my friends, I updated my Facebook page with all kinds of personal information. My friends knew if I hated coming to work on Monday morning. It was fun.
3. Then my boss/co-worker/Mom, asked to be my friend and I felt like I couldn’t say “no” but I don’t want them to see every single personal thing I’m doing but I don’t want to limit my close friends from seeing that stuff.
4. What did I get myself into?!?
Luckily, the Facebook team understands your dilemma and have made some tools within the site to help you manage your different types of friends. Unfortunately, these tools are a little difficult to find and figure out. Once you see what we’re doing, this isn’t going to be hard.
Circles of Friends
Facebook allows you to make lists of friends. Some online services might call them “groups”. I like to talk about these lists as circles of friends because the idea of an inner circle of friends seems easy to grasp. I’ll show you how to define various lists, or circles, within your Facebook friends and grant access differently to your “inner circle” friends vs. work colleagues vs. college friends vs. family members who you only see at holidays.
(A guy I know says he’s friends with people on Facebook he might not speak to on the street. I don’t think he’s alone in this situation.)
Finding Your Friend Lists
We’re going to make some Friends Lists which you can group your Facebook friends into. Along the top navigation of Facebook, click the “Friends” link and then look for the “Friends List” on the left column. If you’ve been on Facebook for a while and you haven’t altered your Friends Lists since you signed up, you probably have “All Friends” and “Limited Profile” on your page here. Newer Facebook members won’t have the “Limited Profile” listing because that seems to be a remnant of when Facebook had fewer grouping options for managing your friends. It doesn’t matter whether you have a Limited Profile listed or not though. We’re just looking for the “Make a New List” button like you see in the screen shot here.
Making Your Circles of Friends
Click the “Make a New List” button and begin adding new lists. In the screen shot here, I’ve added “Inner Friend Circle”, “Regular Friend Circle”, and “Outer Friend Circle”. You might have more circles of friends to define.
For example, on my personal Facebook Page, I’ve got and Advertising circle of friends that allows me to send a message to that group of people if I wanted to. I could also use this page to see status updates just from people I’ve grouped into that Advertising circle of friends. That might be used during some event specific to that industry. I use “Regular Friend Circle” for almost everyone. That’s where I put someone by default when I add them as a Facebook Friend.
Filling Your Circles with the Appropriate Friends
Now that you’ve defined your lists, aka circles, click on “Inner Friend Circle” in the left nav. Currently, your lists are probably empty, but there’s a quick way to fill them up with the appropriate people. For your Inner Circle, there may be only 4 or 5 people in that circle, so you can just start typing their names in the Add to List field in the center of the page. If you’re filling a circle where it might be easier to point and click a page full of your contacts, use the “Select Multiple Friends” option.
It’s important to note that you can add the same people to multiple lists.
Giving Your Circles Different Access to Your Profile
Defining circles of friends becomes really powerful when you understand how you can now grant access to different parts of your profile to various groups of people. For example, although I have my home street address and home phone number listed on Facebook, I don’t grant access to that information except to my Inner Friend Circle, who gets access to everything on my profile. My mobile number My work phone number? Everyone in my Advertising Circle of friends gets to see that.
To get to the place where you can edit access to your profile. Go to Settings > Privacy Settings then click Profile. From there figure out which piece of your profile you want to alter the privacy settings for and choose “Customize” from the drop down menu. After choosing whether only your friends or people who are friends of people you’ve marked as friends can see that piece of info, find the “Except These People” area and start typing the name of the list you want to exclude, for example, in the circles we’ve defined here so far, that might be “Outer Friend Circle”. Whoa. That sounds complicated, right? Here’s a video that will show you what doing that actually looks like.
Excluding People vs. Including People
These setting start by including people who can see information, but the real power comes with excluding people or groups of people.
What does that mean? If you think of my example of my Advertising Circle of friends I mentioned. Probably 85% of all the friends I have on Facebook are somehow connected to the ad industry, so most people fall within that group. But lets say I wanted to exclude my boss. Happily, I don’t have a boss since I co-own JMx2, but let’s just say I did have a boss and I didn’t want him or her to see my status updates where I complained about coming into work on Monday morning. I would go into the Privacy>Profile page shown in the video and in the Status Updates area, I would select “Customize.” To start determine who to include, for example, “Friends of Friends”, then in the Exclude area, type your boss’s name or the name of some circle of friends, like Outer Friend Circle.
You could even define a Friend List called “No Status Friends” and put people in that list that you want to exclude from seeing your status updates. You’d just need to add the “No Status Friends” group to this Profile>Privacy settings page.
Feeling a little freer about your status updates and college party pics being on Facebook? I still think it’s a good idea to only put things up there that you’re comfortable anyone finding, but this will at least give you some control you might not have thought you had.
Did I miss something? Let me know.