Contrary to what most people think, Facebook (and any other social media) is not an alien world where you behave the way you wish, differently from real life. The same rules and common sense that apply in real life must be applied on Facebook as well. And in real life, everybody has several personas played accordingly in each situation. For example, you do not behave the same way in church as you do among your close friends; your boss does not know you as well as your family does. So why share absolutely everything with pretty much everyone who is your friend on Facebook? That picture of you, totally toasted one night at a bar may not convey a good image of yourself to your boss or a potential client (we never know who may have access to it).
“I don’t care what people think about me!”
Well, on social media, you should, especially if it can jeopardize your professional life.
We cannot help it. People will add us as friends on Facebook, regardless of the contact you have had with them and your level of intimacy. In the beginning, I was reluctant to accept requests from people I did not know. With time, I learned that was useless, especially if you are an online person. People may know you, even though you do not know them. Because of that, we may end up having total strangers as friends on Facebook or acquaintances whose friend requests you cannot ignore for any reason, but with whom you do not wish to share absolutely everything you post.
The good thing that most people do not know is that you can create custom friend lists on Facebook in order to easily and quickly restrict what people see, from photo albums to single posts you share.
To create a custom friend list: Scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed. Hover over Friends and click More. Click + Create List. Enter a name for your list and the names of your existing friends you’d like to add to it. Click Create. You can add or remove friends from your lists at any time.
Don’t worry! People do not get notified when you add them to these lists. And you can create several lists. For example, “Family”, “Besties”, “Work”, “Church”, “Strangers”, etc.
You can send someone to a list straight when you send them a friend request: After adding the person, click Friend Request Sent. Select the list you want to add them to. If the list you want is not visible, select Add to another list… to see all of your lists or create a new one.
You can also send someone to a list when you accept their friend request: After confirming their request, hover over the Friends button next to the person’s name still on Friend Requests (at the top of the Facebook page) and select the list you want to add them to. If the list you want is not visible, select Add to another list… to see all of your lists or create a new one.
Whenever you want to add or remove someone from a list, scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed. Hover over Friends and click More. Click on the list you want and then Manage List on the upper right corner of the page. Click Edit List. You can also delete and rename the list here. On this window, you can click on the person you want to remove from the list. Click on the dropdown On This List to add someone from your Friends, Pages or Following list.
Now, when you post something (status updates, photos and others), you can use the audience selector tool (dropdown menu beside Post on What’s on your mind? or with a gearing wheel on your albums). It lets you choose a specific audience:
- Public: anyone, including people off of Facebook
- Friends of Friends
- Friends (+ friends of anyone tagged)
- Only Me
- Custom: this is where you are able to choose who you want to share or not to share your post with (lists, specific people, groups, networks)
I suggest you start by creating your lists. Then review every one of your existing friends and send them to specific lists, or take the chance to unfriend them if you feel like doing so. Uncluttering is also a good practice from time to time.
Another great Facebook feature is the Timeline review. It lets you choose whether posts you are tagged in by other people appear on your Timeline. When people you are not friends with tag you in a post, they automatically go to Timeline review. By doing this, you can accept or reject a tag, depending on your wish to show it on your Timeline or not. You can do the same with all tags:
Click on the arrow at the top right of the Facebook page and select Settings. In the left column, click Timeline and Tagging. Look for Review posts friends tag you in before they appear on your Timeline? and click Edit to the far right. Select Enabled from the dropdown menu.
Also in Settings, take the time to review your current settings, especially the privacy ones. For example, you can restrict who can contact you and who can look you up, block users, etc.
Should you have any other doubts, check the Friend Lists section of Facebook’s Help Center.