Reluctantly or otherwise, Facebook is the place most of us have chosen to share our lives online. In spite of its many useful features, the social media site can be a constant source of annoyance, embarrassment and trouble. Fortunately, with a little effort, you can get Facebook under your control.
Illustration by Leremy (Shutterstock).
Stupid Thing #1: You Don't Regularly Audit Your Approved Apps
How many applications have you approved on Facebook? There are probably a few you don't even know about. When, for example, someone auto-shares an article through a news app (which has the potential to be hilarious and embarrassing), you have to approve the app just to read that article. The same goes for answering survey questions, participating in games, and basically interacting with half the stuff your friends post to their news feeds.
The problem: Apps have a lot of access to your personal data. You don't know exactly what they're seeing or what they're doing with it, so it's important you audit your apps once a month to ensure you haven't inadvertently approved anything you don't want or forgotten about an app you don't use anymore.
The solution: Auditing is pretty easy to accomplish. To start, visit your app settings page and you'll be presented with a list of the apps you're supposedly using. Facebook attempts to order the apps by how recently you have authorised them, but in my experience it tends to get a few things wrong. Nonetheless, go through the list of apps and delete anything that you don't recognise or don't want anymore by clicking the X by its name. You'll also see an Edit link that will display detailed information about what the app can do, plus a few settings. If you want to restrict an app without deleting it, just click that Edit link and change what you want. Changes are saved as you make them, so you don't have to worry about saving.
Once you're done, your app list will be nice and tidy. Just make sure you mark a day on your calendar next month to do it again. You might be surprised by what you'll find.
Stupid Thing #2: You Don't Filter Your News Feeds
The problem: Is your news feed a long list of crap you don't want to dig through to find the few posts you actually want to read? You may have too many friends — which we'll get to next — but it's more likely that you're not filtering anything at all.
The solution: Facebook does an OK job of deciding what's important and what's not, but your help is necessary. If you have a friend who posts mostly crap to your news feed, you can tell Facebook to filter out anywhere from some to all of their posts. Just hover over their message in your feed and click the downward-facing triangle on the upper-right side. You'll see that you're subscribed to the person who posted the message and you have the option to receive All Updates, Most Updates, or Only Important Updates so Facebook knows how much to show you. Additionally, you can unsubscribe from that person's updates altogether (without unfriending them), or just from their comments and likes. In fact, you can even unfollow from the notification alerts menu, too. This is a great way to build a news feed without constant posts from people who annoy you.
If these filtering options aren't good enough, you'll want to check out a great extension called SocialFixer. It provides exceptional filtering options. We'll talk about it more a little later, but if you want to learn more about it right now go and check out our guide.
Stupid Thing #3: You Don't Manage Your Privacy Settings
The problem: Facebook and privacy haven't always gotten along swimmingly, but if you put in a little effort you can largely control how Facebook uses and shares your data. You want to exercise this option because you're setting yourself up for disaster if you don't.
The most common and obvious issue is that employers use Facebook to check out prospective hires. With so much information publicly available, it's not only cheaper than a background check, but often better as well. Despite the risks, 13 million people have yet to even touch their privacy settings. These people are, frankly, stupid.
The solution: Managing your Facebook privacy is not hard to do. If you don't want to waste a lot of time, you can always err on the safe side and lock down as much as possible. Just visit your privacy settings page and don't allow anything at all. This will reduce Facebook's functionality, of course, but you won't have to worry too much about exposing private information. That said, putting in a little more effort can get you the best of both worlds. You'll have to spend a little time figuring out the exact settings you want and then taking the time to update those settings on a regular basis. To stay abreast of everything you need to know about managing your Facebook privacy, bookmark our guide.
Stupid Thing #4: You Complain About Facebook Features You Hate But Don't Fix Them
The problem: A Facebook update rarely goes by without a few people creating petitions to change it back. Regardless of whether or not these petitions are legitimate, if you don't like a given feature you can remove it yourself.
The solution: All it takes is one extension: SocialFixer. This extension works on practically every web browser and can get rid of just about anything you hate. Our guide will walk you through all of its features, but here are a few examples:
- Turn off the chat bar
- Always show both your Facebook message inboxes
- Prevent Facebook from auto-loading posts
- Filter out messages you don't want to see
- Turn off Timeline (for yourself)
Those are just a few of the many options available. If there's something you don't like about Facebook, don't complain about it. Just get SocialFixer and take care of the problem yourself.
Stupid Thing #5: You Friend Everybody
The problem: Facebook began as a private club for Harvard students, slowly opening up to other schools and, eventually, the world. It was designed so you could add friends that were actually your friends. As the social media site has ballooned into what it is today, you can easily end up with friend requests from people you hardly know or only met online. Not only does this end up creating an unmanageably large friend list, you end up sharing personal information with people you don't really know.
Many of us are now stuck with bloated friends lists that are too difficult to manage because we didn't realise the problem until it was too late, and studies are finding that this is actually making us unhappy. Fortunately, there's a simple way to get your enormous friend count to something more reasonable.
The solution: Send out a message to all your "friends" to let them know you're cleaning house. Post a message to your wall saying that you're cleaning house, asking anyone who wants to remain "friends" to send you a message to let you know. Post this message a few times over the course of a week and keep a list of anyone who sends you a request to stay. Additionally, visit your Facebook notifications page to see who you've interacted with to help you figure out who else you want to keep around. Once you've got a good list together and a week or two has passed, it's time to start deleting. This can take a long time if you do it manually, but a GreaseMonkey script called FacebookDeletes can make the process much easier. The script allows you to batch-delete Facebook friends by entering in the friends you want to keep. It will take care of getting rid of the rest. Once you're done, you'll have cleaned house and only have the people on your list.
Mistakes can be made, of course, so if you don't want to completely rid yourself of the not-quite-friends on your list you should turn on subscriptions for your account. This will turn anyone who sends you a friend request into a subscriber, regardless of whether or not you accept it. This way they can have access to any public information you post but nothing you want to keep private.
Stupid Thing #6: You Let Facebook Spam Your Email Inbox With Notifications
The problem: Facebook likes to keep you on Facebook, and one way of doing that is emailing you loads of notifications whenever anything happens. It doesn't matter if it's the epitome of minutiae — it's a reminder that you should be wasting more time on its social media monopoly. These notifications can be useful, as you probably do want to know when some things happen, but they're overwhelming if you're getting too many. The upside is that notifications are pretty easy to manage with just a few alterations to your settings.
The solution: To get started, visit your Facebook notification settings page. At first you might be a little overwhelmed because there are a lot of options, but it's not as bad as you may think. Under the "All Notifications" header you'll see a list of categories. Expand them all and you'll see several conditions that will cause you to receive an email or even a text message. In my opinion, the best way to start is by turning off every notification in every category. Once you've done that, go back through the list and decide what you actually want to receive. The list is long and you may grow a little impatient when deciding what you want, but if everything is unchecked you'll end up with fewer enabled notifications if you start rushing through the list. If you do forget to turn something on that you care about, you can always go back and change it later.
Another (and, I think, better) option is turning off all of your notifications and creating a daily digest of updates. This way you only receive one email per day with a bunch of relevant Facebook activity. You get all the same information, but it's consolidated into a single message. For something in between, check out The Friend Mail, which can also create a daily digest but will notify you about birthdays and important events more urgently. However you prefer to get Facebook updates in your email, there's a way to make it happen.
Stupid Thing #7: You Spend All of Your Time on Facebook
The problem: How much of your time do you spend on Facebook? Apparently a lot of it. It's kind of amazing you're not on Facebook right now. There's also a very good chance you found this post via Facebook. Facebook, Facebook, Facebook!
Although it can be a fun distraction, Facebook is one of the deadliest procrastination tools out there. Even one visit per day can derail your productivity. If Facebook is getting in the way of getting things done, it's probably time to quit — but not really.
The solution: You can quit Facebook without actually quitting Facebook, effectively making it a lot less distracting. This means disabling a lot of features and locking down your privacy settings (as we've previously discussed). If that's too much for you, start tracking the time you spend online and see when you use Facebook the most. Doing so can help you reclaim your time and start using it more effectively. This way you can still use Facebook, but you can avoid it at the times it hurts your productivity the most. If you can pull that off, you'll get the best of both worlds.
But Wait, There's More!
Facebook can be a breeding ground for a lot of stupid choices and plenty of mistakes — we just didn't have enough room or time to list them all. Here are a few more if you want to go even further:
- You're not using HTTPS.
- You're friending people from the office.
- Your password is insecure.
- You let Facebook track you.
- You keep falling for scams.
And the list could go on. What are some of the dumb things you've done on Facebook and how did you fix them? Let us know in the comments!