Facebook's notification options aren't bad, but they're still not as granular as some of us would like. If you've already tweaked every notification setting Facebook offers and you're still unsatisfied, here's how to take it a step further using Gmail filters.
Taking a look at your "My Account" settings in Facebook, the big problem is with the very first option: Notifications when someone sends you a message (see the image at left). In reality some messages are more important than others, so it would be great to get notifications for just the important ones.
I'm going to cover four filters you can setup to improve the signal-to-noise ratio of your Facebook notifications:
- Messages sent to you because you're a member of a group or because you've been invited to an event
- Black lists
- White lists
- Filtering group and event messages
These are the main problem for me. Events you haven't even responded to can send you messages, and if you're not diligent about clearing out invites, the notifications build up. But I do want to be notified when someone sends me a personal message. Fortunately the notifications Facebook sends are structurally different, and we can use that in our filters. Below, the top is a message sent to a group member or event invitee and the lower image is one sent from the regular Facebook compose page:
So the difference is that phrase "sent a message to the members of". Here's how I use it to create better filters for Facebook notifications:
- Find your way to Gmail's filters section. To do that click "Settings" in the top right corner then click the "Filters" tab.
- Click "Create a new filter". You'll be presented with the following screen:
- In the "From" box, type: Facebook
- In the "Has the words:" field type "sent a message to the members of" (include the quotation marks).
- Click the Next Step button.
- Tick the Delete It box (if that's what you want to do. You could just mark it as read and archive it).
- Click the Create Filter button and you're done.
Now you'll only get notified about the more personal missives. But what if you belong to some groups in which you want to receive new message notifications? In that case you need to add a white list to the filter you just created. To add white lists for certain groups, the "Has the words:" field needs to change to "sent a message to the members of" AND -("Name of group 1" OR "Name of group 2"). You can list as many groups as you like separated by "OR". In a similar way, you can trash ALL message notification and only white list certain people. In that case, the "Has the words:" field should look like ("sent you a message" OR "sent a message to the members of") AND -("Friend 1" OR "Friend 2" OR "Name of group 1" OR "Name of group 2").
Adding black lists? If you're generally happy with the notifications you get except for a few regular offenders, you can create a black list instead that filters out message notifications from certain friends and groups. In that case the filter is the same as the last one but with the "-" removed, like this: ("sent you a message" OR "sent a message to the members of") AND ("Friend 1" OR "Friend 2" OR "Name of group 1" OR "Name of group 2").
Have another way of taming Facebook notifications? Let us know in the comments.
Top photo by Chuckumentary
Steve blogs regularly about science, maths and technology over at blog.stevemould.com.