How to Artfully Cull Your Facebook Friends List

Do your Facebook friends have you pulling your hair out? Check out our tips for getting your Friends list under control.
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Facebook makes it easy to build your social network -- sometime too easy. With very little effort, you can end up with an unmanageable Friends list. Over time, though, you may want to trim your Friends list in order to do any or all of the following:

  • Eliminate bloat in your news feed.
  • Avoid posts that are inappropriate or offensive.
  • Dodge posts covering certain religious or political views.
  • Limit your information to a more restricted group of people.

Whatever your reasons for pruning your Friends list, the information in this article will help you, whether you want to cut people altogether or just limit which friends see certain information.

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Before you start culling, decide whether you want to notify your friends. One option is to not say anything about your plan and just start cutting. Alternately, you may choose to announce your plans in a status update or a personal message to everyone in your Friends list.

If you don't announce your plans, people might not notice the change unless they view your profile. This is because Facebook doesn't notify users when they're removed from a Friends list. You may decide to announce your plans, though, to prepare yourself for questions from those who do notice the change. Here are some tips for composing such an announcement:

  • Be tactful and consistent with your message.
  • Choose wording that doesn't make your friends feel awkward. Don't say, "I just have too many friends," or "I don't like your posts." Try a more diplomatic approach, such as, "I am having difficulty keeping up with everyone I'm connected to here on Facebook."
  • Explain that this is what you feel you need now, though it might not be how you feel in the future. Don't say, "I just don't want to follow some of you anymore." Say, "I've changed how I want to use my Facebook account right now, which means I'll be cutting back on the number of people I'm following."
  • Consider including an option to request staying connected, or offer alternate contact information such as your e-mail address or phone number.
  • Ask a couple of trusted friends (whom you're planning to keep on your list) to read the message and give you some feedback before you post it.

With your plan in place, use the tips on the next page to make the changes you need.

Tips for Managing Your Facebook Friends List

To view or block content from a custom friends group, select Specific People and enter the name of that group.
To view or block content from a custom friends group, select Specific People and enter the name of that group.
Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

The following are some tips for managing your Friends list in Facebook. These can help you control both the list itself and which friends can see what information:

Set up rules for who makes the cut. You may already have some ideas of why you accept certain friend requests and ignore others. Put some thought into what rules you want to follow to make that determination from now on. You'll want to use these rules as a guide when culling your current list.

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Group friends into custom lists to avoid a one-size-fits-all approach. You can create additional lists that are subsets of your existing Friends lists. Use these lists to filter certain content, either in individual posts or in your overall privacy settings. You can create and manage these lists on the Friends management page while you're signed in to Facebook. You're the only one who can see the titles and users in your custom lists.

To create a custom Friends list, go to your Friends management page (Account > Edit Friends) and click Create a List. In the dialog window, enter a list name and click the profile pictures from those shown to select friends to add to the list. Click Create List to save the selections. To add or remove people in the list at any time, return to the friendship management page and either select the list from the left or mouse over a specific user and use the Edit Lists menu to toggle the checkmarks of which lists that user belongs to.

Use built-in or custom lists to set your default privacy levels. When you edit your overall privacy settings, you can customize the settings for each type of content you share, from photos and wall posts to the individual items in your profile. By default, you can select from the following options for each item: Everyone, Friends Only and Friends of Friends. You can apply your custom Friends list by selecting Customize instead, choosing specific people that should or shouldn't be able to see that content and using the names of your lists in place of individual people.

Use custom lists to limit liked content from the news feed. If you scroll to the bottom of your Friends list while you're choosing users to add to a custom list, you'll notice that the topics you've liked are also listed as options to add. You can treat these the same as users when it comes to hiding content your news feed.

Use your custom lists to filter content as you add it. Look for the lock icon when posting status updates, links, photos, videos or any other content. You'll also find the icon when editing settings for each photo album. To other users, Facebook doesn't indicate whether certain content is limited, it only shows it or hides it based on the filter. Then, like in the default privacy described above, select Customize and use your custom list names to choose who will be able to see that content.

Limit that "left out" feeling. Because Facebook is all about social networking, it's possible that word will get out about something you said to one friend that another couldn't see. Have a plan to handle that respectfully for any questions that arise, and remember to stick to your rules.

Consider preventing certain people from finding you. Facebook gives you the option to block certain people from finding your Facebook account, and, at the same time, block you from seeing their content. Let's take a closer look at this feature on the next page.

Blocking Users in Facebook

When you click the link to report or block a user, Facebook prompts you to select from these options.
When you click the link to report or block a user, Facebook prompts you to select from these options.
Stephanie Crawford for HowStuffWorks

Sometimes removing a user from your Friends list in Facebook doesn't go far enough when you're trying to avoid contact with that person. This is especially true if you feel you're being harassed or bullied by a user. Or,, you might just want to hide from someone for a while. Block Lists can help you take this extra step.

Facebook has three types of Block Lists: users, app invites and event invites. For any users you block, Facebook does the following:

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  • Removes the user from your Friends list (if applicable)
  • Prevents you and that user from finding each other when searching other users
  • Prevents you and that user from viewing any part of each other's content
  • Prevents you and that user from seeing comments and likes on mutual friends' pages

Keep in mind, Facebook does not control any connections you might have through third party applications in Facebook or elsewhere on the Internet.

To view and edit Block Lists, go to your privacy settings (Account > Privacy) and click the linked text under Block Lists at the bottom of the page. There, you can enter the name or e-mail address of each user you want to block. Facebook will search for matches based on what you enter and prompt you to choose from the search results. You can also use the "Report/Block This Person" link on a user's profile page to create the new block.

When you create the block for an existing friend, Facebook will prompt you for more information. First, Facebook gives you the choice between unfriending or blocking, indicating the difference between those choices. Then, Facebook asks you to optionally select whether your block is for something simple, like just being annoying, or for a more serious infraction, such as harassment or bullying. Be sure to provide this feedback if you want Facebook to take any follow-up action regarding the user you're blocking.

While a user block is active, from that user's point of view, you no longer exist on Facebook. In addition, that user doesn't exist from your point of view, either, though you remain in control over the block. You can reverse a block using the "remove" link for that person in your Block List settings. You'll also have to add the person to your Friends list again if you want to reconnect. When you do this, keep in mind that you won't be able to block the same user again for 48 hours.

When blocking users, as when hiding content with custom Friends lists, be prepared if someone asks about your actions. If it's someone you're just trying to avoid online and don't see in your everyday life, you might want to avoid responding to any retaliating e-mails or contact attempts at other Web sites. If it's someone that could be a threat offline, especially a physical threat, contact your local law enforcement agency for advice on what to do.

Throughout this article, you've gathered tips on how to cull your Friends list in Facebook and discovered some Facebook features that can help. Cut on over to the next page for even more information on keeping your Friends list in check.

More Great Links

Sources

  • Facebook. "Help Center, Friends: New Friends Page." (July 11, 2011) http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=200538509990389
  • Facebook. "Help Center, Privacy: Blocking people." (July 11, 2011) http://www.facebook.com/help/?faq=131930530214371