How To Keep Your Crazy Friends and Family From Ruining Your Facebook Life

How To Keep Your Crazy Friends and Family From Ruining Your Facebook Life

by Kerry Scott on 31 July 2011

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I’ve seen a lot of talk lately about the issues that sometimes come up for people who use Facebook.  One of the downsides of a social media site used by everyone is that you end up “friending” people from very different parts of your life.  It’s like a wedding reception with an unattended microphone.  Your boss is next to your drunken uncle, who is raving about Obama to your high school sweetheart and your mother-in-law and your kid’s friend’s mom, and all of this is taking place in front of your horrified clients (not to mention the potential employer who just looked you up on the internet).  It’s a mess.  Not everyone has good judgement or common sense.

When Google+ came out, I saw a lot of people talking about how great it is to be able to sort your updates for different people.  When you type a message into Google+, you decide who can see it.  Genealogy friends?  High school friends?  In-laws?  Whatever.  Here’s the thing, though:  You can do the same thing on Facebook.  The ability to decide who does (or doesn’t) see a particular status update has been there for a long, long time.  Here’s how to use it.

How to Create Lists on Facebook

  1. Log on to Facebook.  In the top right corner, click on Account.  A drop down menu will appear.
  2. Click on Edit Friends.  You’ll see a list of your Facebook friends.
  3. Click on the + Create a List button at the top of your list.  In the first dialog box, where it says “Enter a Name,” type in a name for your list (i.e. Genealogy Friends, Family, Parents of My Kids’ Friends, People Who Have The Same Political Views As Me So It’s Okay To Talk Smack Because They Will Agree, People Who I Never Ever Want to Discuss Politics With Because It Will Get Ugly, etc.).
  4. Click on the photos of the people you want to add to your list.  Scroll down to see more of them.  If you’re not sure how to divide people up, keep in mind that you can have people on more than one list.  For example, I have some HR friends and a high school friend who are into genealogy.  Some of those people are on overlapping lists, because I might want to share more than one type of post with them.
  5. Click the blue Create List button at the bottom.  Voila!  Your list is done.  Repeat this process until you have as many lists as you need to keep your clients from mixing with your drunken uncles.

How To Use Facebook Lists To Determine Who Sees What You Post

  1. Type in your status update as you usually do, but don’t hit Share yet.
  2. Click the little padlock next to the Share button.
  3. Click on Customize.  A dialog box will appear.  This is where the magic happens.
  4. Click on the Friends Only button.
  5. Click on Specific People.  Type in the people (or groups) you want to be able to see the message.  For example, if I’m talking about genealogy, I’ll start typing “Genealogy,” and the name of that list will appear in the drop-down menu.  Select the list or name you want.  You can have a multiple lists, or a mix of people and lists.  For example, I might choose my genealogy list plus an individual friend or two who might find the item of interest (because it relates to their hometown or whatever).  If I’m sharing a picture of my kids, I might choose my Family list, my Friends list, plus a few of my individual genealogy friends who have kids the same age as mine.  You have complete control over exactly who sees each and every update you post to Facebook.  In fact, you can also hide posts from specific people or groups, in the “Hide This From” box below.  Make a list of your perpetual trouble makers, or exclude just the one drunken uncle who still wants to see Obama’s birth certificate.  Whatever you need.
  6. Review the boxes to make sure you have the right people included/excluded. Click Save Setting.
  7. Relax and enjoy the peace of mind that comes from feeling like you might actually be able to keep drama off of your Facebook page long enough to eat lunch or something.  It’s not foolproof (because nothing is, especially on the internet). But it helps.

Photo by Ed Siasoco

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{ 16 comments… read them below or add one }

Michelle Goodrum July 31, 2011 at 2:02 pm

Thank you for taking us through the process step by step. I needed it.


susan park July 31, 2011 at 2:27 pm

Thank you Kerry. Even though I jumped right on the google+ bandwagon I thought what I really ought to do is learn to use what I’ve already got–facebook–instead. I’m still mixed up though by the fact that you can have 1000 people in a list but you can’t send a message to a list that has more than 20 people in it. Can you or anyone else straighten me out on that?


Kerry Scott August 1, 2011 at 5:57 am

Do you mean a private message? I’ve never tried using my lists for those, but their help system says that their limit is 20 recipients whether you use a list or not (i.e. if you typed out the names individually, it still wouldn’t let you pick more than 20). I would guess that’s meant to limit spam.


kristin July 31, 2011 at 3:25 pm

It is so much easier on google + though.


Kerry Scott August 1, 2011 at 6:00 am

I’m actually finding it tougher on G+, because I already have my default settings the way I like them on Facebook. On G+ I have to re-select the lists I want for each post (although perhaps there’s a way to save the default settings there too; I haven’t had much time to look, and it’s only a few weeks old so maybe they’ll add it).


iamuhura August 1, 2011 at 9:55 pm

On the left hand side, if you’ve already selected the list (or stream) you’re looking at, when you type in the Share box, that list populates by default.

So if you click Friends and that stream loads, when you start typing in the Share box, it assumes you want to share with Friends already. You can add more people specifically, change lists, etc – but it defaults to the list you’re already viewing. =)


Susan Tiner July 31, 2011 at 7:55 pm

Great advice. But I’m sticking to my original plan: post only what you want to read about in the tabloids, if only they cared :-).


Daniel Hoffman August 1, 2011 at 1:40 pm

Thanks for this posting. It is already too late for me. Exactly because of the wedding reception syndrome, I was going crazy and was starting to feel as though I needed to be an arbitrator or mediator. So one day I woke up and just decided to close the whole thing down. It took me about a month to shut down Facebook because I tried to be very careful and not to leave any more than necessary behind. Frankly, I haven’t missed it at all and it has given me time to be addictive with genealogy. Maybe if I had thought about how to use it for genealogical research, I would have hesitated.


Kerry Scott August 1, 2011 at 3:31 pm

I’ve had moments where I thought about doing that…but really, the problem isn’t Facebook. It’s the behavior of a few people under specific conditions on Facebook. I have more annoying phone calls than Facebook interactions in a given week, but I’m not canceling my phone service.

I do think that sometimes the appropriate course of action is to block/unfriend people who are consistently causing you grief. This is supposed to be a tool to have fun and connect with people in your life. If it isn’t doing that, adjust it until it is. Whatever way you need to do that (including giving it up, if that’s the best option for you) is fine.

Part of the reason that I adjusted my approach rather than giving it up is that there are SO many genealogists on Facebook. I’ve met a lot of other researchers that way, and that’s valuable to me. Genealogy used to be a fairly lonely pursuit, but it isn’t anymore, thanks to social media.


Cheryl August 1, 2011 at 2:32 pm

Great post! I’m going to get everyone organized right now!


Brian August 1, 2011 at 5:33 pm

I’ve gone with the firewall approach: keep my friends on Facebook and my professional contacts on LinkedIn… and never the twain shall meet.

By the way, we’re living somewhat parallel lives… I’m a corporate HR person and a genealogist (I just haven’t been smart enough yet to get out of the HR grind)!


Kerry Scott August 2, 2011 at 3:49 pm

Cool—nice to “meet” a fellow HR genealogist! There are actually quite a few. I think there’s something about practicing HR during the day that makes you want to spend your evenings and weekends with dead people.


Heliantheae March 18, 2012 at 8:24 pm

Kerry I LOVE your blog. Can you tell me how to do these facebook steps to group my different sets of friends and family on the new facebook timeline? When I go to the drop down under my account it does not show a edit friends link. I can not figure out what I am doing wrong and I even ate chocolate then re-approached the situation.


Kerry Scott March 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

Thank you! The timeline doesn’t actually affect the friend lists (just the way your info appears). Some of Facebook’s other changes have slightly altered how the friend lists are created, though; you can find update instructions here.


Heliantheae March 29, 2012 at 12:22 pm

Thank you so much!


Nami April 25, 2012 at 2:54 pm

This post is very useful for those who don’t have timeline. However, i do happen to have timeline, and I’m confused about how to do what you’ve just done. Could someone tell me how to change a friend to a family member (taking them off the friend list and transferring them to family)?


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