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Friend Management: The Key to Choosing Your Audience

Unless you keep your Friends list small and exclusive, you’ll find yourself friending and being befriended by more than just the dear old friends you’d trust with your house keys and your unlocked diary.

There will also be co-workers, casual acquaintances, friends of friends you met at a party, and old schoolmates you lost track of years ago, as well as all sorts of other gray-area cases. You may even be using Facebook to make friends with interesting new people you don’t know very much about at all, just yet.

Fortunately, Facebook’s Friend List feature (as explained in the Friends chapter) is a great tool for sorting and grouping your friends. And by organizing your friends according to your degree of intimacy with them, you can use your Friend Lists to filter how much and what you reveal to whom.

The Three-Level System

One simple system you can use is to sort your growing Facebook circle into three basic lists.

Start by creating one list that’s just for your nearest and dearest: the inner-circle friends who already know all your business, and whom you trust enough to grant total security clearance to your Facebook profile. Call this list something like Trusted Friends.

Next, create a second list for all the people in the middle. The people you don’t know well enough to let them see you with your hair in curlers, or share your home address with, but also don’t have any reason to feel wary of. Call this list something like Casual Friends or Acquaintances. This will probably be the biggest list and the one you add people to by default.

Finally, create a third list for people you don’t know very well, aren’t entirely sure how much you trust, or just want to keep an eye on until you have a better sense of what makes them tick. You can call this list something like Restricted Access or Watch List. (I call mine PIDRK, which stands for “People I Don’t Really Know,” but you might not find unwieldy acronyms as entertaining as I do.)

Once you’ve got those lists set up, it’s time to perform a simple triage operation. Go through your All Friends list (choose Account > Edit Friends in the blue bar and then choose All Friends from the menu at the top of the page), and assign everyone to one of those three lists.

Going forward, each time you add a new friend, you should automatically assign them to the appropriate list.

Here’s another refinement: If you have family members whom you love and trust but still don’t want seeing certain photos or comments you post, you might create a fourth list for them, called Family Members.

Once you get the hang of them, you can use Facebook’s custom Friend Lists to sort your friends into as many different levels of security clearance as you want (up to Facebook’s maximum of 100 lists), and as you’ll see, there are lots of ways to put your custom lists to work.

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