Control How You Share on Facebook

Pamela Chan,

As more information comes out about the next change to the Facebook news feed, it’s a good time to revisit how you control what appears on your personal page and how other people see your content on their news feed.

Mark Zuckerberg has said that Facebook extends “people’s capacity to build and maintain relationships.” Does your use of Facebook achieve this goal? For example, when we talk about “unfriending”, “blocking” or “unfollowing” people on Facebook, what we’re really saying is that we don’t want to be in community with that person anymore. This is a pretty drastic action to take.

Ouch! You can’t cut off ties with a person on Facebook and then engage in chummy chit chat at the next office party, family get together or school reunion. Well you could but don’t you think that would be a touch weird? Saying “oh I just want to stay connected with my granny” won’t cover you either.

Sometimes we read complaints in media pieces or comment sections about peoples’ political posts; Misery Monday complaints; continuous photos of gorgeous holidays; or, too many selfies. These egregious actions (I jest) can be reasons for people to delete their connection with your profile page.  For no good reason, someone to whom you have shown kindness and support in countless ways over the years might trot down this dramatic path.

Surely there must be a better way.

There is Another Way

Save for serious people who need to be cut loose (an important point), keep a distance from the Unfriend, Unfollow and Block buttons. Instead think about how you have been sharing content and start to be more diligent about building and using Facebook lists.

How well are you connecting with others via your Facebook page?

  • Are there people who NEVER like any of your posts or photos?
  • Are there people who never reply to comments that you leave on their page?
  • Are there people who neither interact with you nor send you messages on Facebook or elsewhere?

The Edge Rank algorithm on Facebook will determine if your contacts aren’t interacting with your content. It will serve these disinterested folks less and less of your posts until you truly are invisible to them. From not using the site to not liking your content – there are many reasons why some of your contacts are invisible to you. Whatever the reasons, if they’re not interacting with you, surely they won’t care if you cut off access to content with which they don’t show an interest.

Start Building a Better Community

Who are the people who engage with you and your contributions online?

  1. Make a list on Facebook that includes contacts who will see all of your updates. These are people who tend to interact with you on a regular basis.
  2. Make a list of contacts who engage with you regularly and ADD others who don’t interact with you. Post to that list less often. You can decide on the frequency. Perhaps list 2 will see about 1/4 to 1/5 of your updates.
  3. Create a third category of lists that is tailored to specific groups such as fellow alumnae, people with similar interests or people who live in a specific region. Facebook has already created an automatically generated list that you can use for people who live in your area.

Avoid sharing in the public mode. Your current profile photo and current cover photos are always set by Facebook to be read as “public”. Until you change to a new photo for either of these categories, anyone in the world can read the comments under these photos.  Once you change one of these photos, you can set that old photo to another list.

After you have set up your lists, you can always readjust the lists and move people around to different lists.

Good News

After you go to the trouble of creating lists, you can also filter news on your news feed by selecting to read content shared by people on that list. Click on the Bookmark/lists page and you will see all of your lists. Hover your mouse to the far right of the white section next to the list name and click on the star. Add that list to “favourites” and it will appear under FRIENDS on the left hand side of your homepage (scroll down a bit).

Did that feel a bit fussy? It isn’t really. Once you start sharing more selectively and even reading more selectively, some of your frustrations about how Facebook works will be alleviated. In the meantime Facebook is set to control how you read your news feed by emphasizing content of people with whom you are supposedly the most connected.

Wouldn’t you rather read Facebook content on your own terms?

You can comment about this posting on the Facebook page. Your contribution matters so don’t be shy!


Here is the official Facebook explanation for how to build a list:

To create a new list:

  1. Scroll down to Friends on the left side of your News Feed. Hover over Friends and click More.
  2. Click Create List.
  3. Enter a name for your list and the names of friends you’d like to add. Keep in mind you can add or remove friends from your lists at any time.
  4. Click Create.
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4 thoughts on “Control How You Share on Facebook

  1. >>what we’re really saying is that we don’t want to be in community with that person anymore<<

    It's saying we don't want to read status updates from that person anymore. FB is a one-to-many platform. I can get advertising, political messaging, sports updates without having to log on to a network where Farmville or other games stuff will be pushed on me. FB would be so much better if its denizens behaved the way they would in one-to-one messaging. If someone came up to me and with no hellos, no updates, started in on extremist political propaganda I'd move away.

    I'm not understanding the "you have to take my diatribes, harangues, memes of 'if you don't click this to world hunger you are a terrible person', and other impersonal mindworms or else we can't talk to each other anymore when we meet in person at such and such event" position.

    I can be a private person who functions best in small crowds and still have community with people. Why do i have to submit myself to megaphone blasts of positions you know to be severely flawed or delusional, or opt to be part of a marketer's datascraping wonderland to keep up with people?

  2. If you “unfriend” a person (or block them – which effectively “unfriends” them) and never contact them again, you have very clearly cut your ties. It’s a strange choice to make. But people do it all the time for the shabbiest of reasons. I haven’t seen content like Farmville for 7 years. What people share in 2016 on Facebook is quite different from the early days. It’s not bland. It’s not safe. But the platform certainly has evolved. It is a good idea to use filters, for the reasons described in this post. It helps to make the online dinner party that is Facebook more pleasant.

  3. Unfriending is no worse than not responding when I say hi, or not reciprocating when I wish someone a happy birthday. Unfriending is acceptance that I don’t care to register at best as an increment on someone’s friend count. Unfriending is a message of “this connection is artificial and not beneficial to me so I’m ending it”.

    Are there people who NEVER like any of your posts or photos?
    Are there people who never reply to comments that you leave on their page?
    Are there people who neither interact with you nor send you messages on Facebook or elsewhere?

    What’s the point of maintaining connection with any of the above types of people? Isn’t it illusory?

  4. That’s a good point you make. Why bother keeping your profile account connected to that person? One reason is that you never know why a person isn’t interacting. Some might not be using their account other than to say “thanks for the birthday greetings” once a year. Some might be checking in infrequently. Some might be reading people’s content but not interacting. And on it goes. There are also different types of contacts. Some people have 100s of contacts and mix personal and business contacts together on one contact list. Unfriending. Blocking. Unfollowing. Muting. All of these topics have gotten their turn in the spotlight. This topic is about sharing your content with the people who are genuinely interested to engage with what you are saying and sharing. By continuing to share the occasional update with all of your contacts, this gives anyone who hasn’t engaged with you a lot in the past the opportunity to become part of that more frequent sharing group. So it’s not as sharp an action as “muting” an account. The “use lists” system was developed by Facebook so that you can read content based on your interests. It also also meant to be used when posting but the good people at Facebook haven’t gone so far as to say that using lists strategically will help you to maintain a positive and enjoyable experience on Facebook. They are a business and they have to make money. Their focus (and I’ve seen their execs admit as much) is on the business accounts and pages. I’m not so sure that they give the user’s experience too much thought these days. (Other than to introduce more and more tools to help you cut out other people’s content in ways that doesn’t allow for a change in how people are interacting.) This is what I’m arguing with this post.

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