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Tip: Use Facebook Lists to Keep Friends Close, Acquaintances Less Close

Rob Pegoraro
Contributing Editor

Facebook privacy is a perennial source of fear, uncertainty and doubt. (And, for the millionth time, posting a legalese-larded privacy notice on your profile does nothing to change that). But one of the better ways to avoid unwanted exposure of your food-porn photos and snarky political remarks also happens to be pleasantly straightforward—and a key Facebook feature makes it even more effective.

Read: How to Avoid Political Arguments on Facebook

I am speaking not only about being picky about whom you accept as a friend on the social network, but also of Facebook’s option of classifying friends as “acquaintances.” 

It’s available anytime you bring up a friend’s profile: on the desktop site, click the “Friends” button in the lower third of their header image, or in its iOS and Android apps you’d tap the “Friends” button on their profile and then tap “Edit Friend List.”

Once you’ve done that, you can automatically leave them out of some updates (for instance, those anonymously critiquing their annoying workplace habits). On the desktop (Web) version, you do this by clicking on the “Who should see this?” button (that menu should always show “Public” or “Friends”) and selecting “Friends except Acquaintances.“ 

If you don’t see that, click "More Options.” Under that, select Custom, then fill in the blanks for which lists you do and don’t want to share the post with. Click Save Changes, and then Post. (This workaround shouldn’t be necessary, but one of my colleagues had to go through these steps, so we list them just in case.)

In the app you do this by selecting “Friends except Acquaintances” from the “audience selector” menu below every update, then select Done and Post.

Just having that option of limiting how many people can see an update should get you thinking more about how your overall visibility on Facebook—a healthy habit to develop on any social network.

You can use those same shortcuts to put your best pals on a “Close Friends” list. And for the closest of friends, the ones you might put in your will, Facebook offers yet another option: naming them as “Trusted contacts” who can help recover your account if it’s ever compromised. Go to your security settings, click “Trusted Contacts” and pick a handful of people to be in this innermost circle.

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Email Rob at rob@robpegoraro.com; follow him on Twitter at @robpegoraro.