A guide to hiding from unwanted Facebook ‘friends’
Connecting with people on social media can lead to perplexing etiquette problems
Use the “restricted” setting if you feel you must add people who ask to be Friends even if you don’t really want to, or for Friends you already have, wish you didn’t have, but don’t want to unfriend them (so harsh). Photograph: Getty Images
Facebook introduced the concept of the “Friend”. You know who they are – the people who ask you to be friends, or whom you ask to be friends, but you are really only “Friends” in a Facebook nomenclature kind of way, not friends that you know particularly well.
Actually, you might not know them at all, especially if people ask to connect with you on Facebook as a kind of work extension of LinkedIn. This creates perplexing etiquette problems.
If someone asks, especially if they are Friends with one of your proper friends, then you face ignoring them, or adding them as a Friend when you don’t really want them to be viewing your posts about that weekend dinner party, or to see how joyfully trivial you are in real life, a person who thrives on reposting cat videos.
Or maybe you’d just like to get rid of people that you once Friended, but now wish you hadn’t.
Likewise, there’s a related Twitter problem. Even if you have a separate work account, people tend to follow personal accounts, too. Then the question arises: do you reciprocate and follow them back, when you are generally uninterested in getting their tweets?
Or perhaps, you have followed someone and now wish you had not, or have discovered that someone you used to have respect for makes the most annoying tweets on the planet, or tweets at such an alarming velocity that your Twitter feed seems to be nothing but them. Yet, you fear if you unfollow them, they will find out and be offended.
My friends (or is that, my Friends?): I have been there. And I can offer you some handy solutions to both problems. Some of you will know these, but I know from experience that many do not.
I’ll start by saying that once upon a time, I decided that Facebook would be a more personal space where I connect with a few close friends and family, and I’d move all my work connections there to LinkedIn or Twitter. Did that work? No.
Thankfully, I discovered these useful little adjustments.
On Twitter, you have a few options. If you are following someone and don’t want to see their idiotic tweets any more, use the “mute” setting. This is in the menu that appears if you click open the “…” menu that appears on the bottom right of every tweet in your Twitter feed. Now you won’t get any more of their tweets. You can go look at their Twitter home page if you want to see what they are tweeting about, and you can still tweet back to them or direct message (DM) them there.
Then you can easily add a person to a list using the “add to list” option on their profile page or their tweet (if you use a Twitter organising platform like Tweetdeck). I then create a column for my lists, and all the list-member tweets appear there. You can add people you already follow to lists, too. You can also follow other people’s lists.
Facebook confuses people far more than Twitter – so many settings, so hard to understand who can still see what.
But I am about to bring great happiness into your life. The most useful, yet perhaps least known thing on Facebook is the “restricted” category. Facebook offers the restricted setting on the menu options for all Friends.
Use it if you feel you must add people who ask to be Friends even if you don’t really want to, or for Friends you already have, wish you didn’t have, but don’t want to unfriend them (so harsh).
People on the restricted list can see your public posts only. That means you can start to manage Friends on Facebook with greater subtlety, without getting quite so confused about all the other privacy settings and how they affect any other lists you create. Restricted always means public posts only.
You can also now “unfollow” someone on Facebook, which means you won’t get their posts at all (and they won’t know it), but you are still technically Friends (and they will still be able to see any of your posts unless you put them on the restricted or some other list).
That’s it. You are very, very welcome.