You're on Facebook. So is the guy sitting next to you on the bus. Your brothers, best mates, old classmates, demented neighbors, former coworkers, your grandma – they're all on Facebook. The social networking behemoth now boasts over 500 million (active) members (that's 1 in every 13 people on earth) and everything from your Mountain Dew Code Red to your sneakers has a fan page). Facebook is becoming an integral (and at times, claustrophobic) part of how we access the Internet.
So, how to best handle this beast? We've got a slew of tips and tricks on how to try to tame the Facebook monster right here.
Entry Level Tips and Navigation
Your Account Settings Menu
The Account Settings Menu leads you to basic information about yourself - name, email, address - as well as additional tabs, the most important of which are Facebook Ads (where you can turn off advertisments that appear on your page) and notifications where you can set what Facebook activities you'd like to be notified of. Clicking on Privacy in the Settings tab (or from the drop-down menu below Account in the upper-right hand navigation) leads to the Privacy Settings Menu:
Privacy Settings Menu
You'll likely be spending a lot of time here - mostly navigating between the View Settings, Customize Settings and Edit Your Settings links, all of which lead to different options. Check out the screenshots below:
Privacy Settings > View Settings
Clicking on the View Settings link under Privacy Settings leads you to this menu, where you can adjust who can view basic information and acivity on your Facebook page. The safest setting is to share information with Friends Only or to choose Customize to edit what each friend or list can see.
Privacy Settings>Customize Settings
Clicking Customize Settings under Privacy Settings, gets you to another menu which allows you to edit who can view what. Again, Friends Only is usually the way to go, unless you want to customize further. Sharing with everyone really does mean everyone.
Privacy Settings> Apps and Websites (Edit Your Settings)
Choosing Edit Your Settings under the Apps and Websites section in Privacy leads you to the menu above - it's a biggie, since this is where you can control all your apps. Those pesky suckers really like to run rampant on your Facebook page, too. For now, just know that this is the place to lock 'em down.
Preview and Change Your Profile
Preview Your Profile to Check Settings: You can check out how your profile looks by choosing Preview My Profile which is located in View Settings, under Privacy Settings. As an added bonus, you can also type in friends names and get a preview as to what your profile looks like to them. It's a nice way to make sure that everything is set and displayed the way you want it.
Update FB Status via Twitter: If you're also a Twitter fan then you can integrate your FB pages by installing the Twitter application for FB. This will reproduce all Tweets as FB status updates when you add #fb to them. (Note: like pretty much all applications, you'll have to allow the Twitter app some access to portions of you account. It's up to you whether you're willing or not, but obviously it needs access to your status feed to operate).
Change Your Language: At the very bottom of your profile page, there will be a hyperlinked language (if you're reading this, it likely says "English"). Clicking on the link gives you the option to change the language FB appears in – and there are a ton of choices including Pirate and Upside Down. (This is also accessible via the Languages tab in Account Settings).
Shape Your Status, or Hide It
Make Shapes Appear in Your Status: Cut and paste from this site (or just Google "Facebook Symbols") to add tiny scissors, or crowns, or various heart shapes as your status. They do show up pretty damn tiny though, so maybe skip the more intricate ones. Likewise, if you're digging your upside down FB page, try upside down statuses by cutting and pasting from typeupsidedown.com
Hide Your Status Updates from Certain Friends: Your status updates don't have to be universally shared – they can be tailored so that only certain friends can view them, or individually tailored so that only one person can see them. Which is a good way to keep your mom safe from hearing about last Friday night, and your boss from hearing about why you really missed work on Saturday morning, while still allowing your inner circle to hear the story about what really happened in that Chilli's parking lot. While you can edit who is allowed to view every status by hitting Customize under Privacy Settings, the little padlock underneath the status box is a quick and easier shortcut to customize each and every status update. It gives you the option to customize who can see it, and list who it should be hidden from.
Apps to Alter Your Status
Get a Dislike Button: It seems odd that FB gives you the option to like something but not to dislike it…because really, there's just so much to dislike on FB. If you're just itching to dislike everything you come across, you can add the option using an app like Magic Updates or Magic Status. But be forewarned, like with pretty much every Facebook app, this one is going to want access to your basic info including name, profile photo, list of friends – AND installing it allows Magic Updates to post messages, notes, photos and video to your Wall.
Busy? Schedule Status Updates for a Later Time: Update your status at a later time using the Later Bro app to schedule when your updates post. You can set 140 character status updates for every fifteen minutes during a 24 hour period, as well as setting them daily, every other day and weekly. And yes, Later Bro pulls basic information from your profile.
Check Statuses from Around the World - a Lesson on Caution: Need to see what folks are saying about Charlie Sheen, around the world? Scan through public Facebook statuses by keyword on Openbook ; you can filter results by gender of user but it's also a cautionary tale about letting the world have access to your status updates – just try a search for something like "my new mobile number" or "drinking last night" or any other uncouth activity and see how many very public results you get.
Check Out Your Status Stats: You can check your own status stats (how many, over how many days, statuses per day, favorite words) by adding the Status Statistics app. It's interesting to see aggregate information about your posts, and you can always ditch the app after you've checked out your info. (Apps can be managed by going to Privacy Settings, then Edit Your Settings in Apps and Websites).
Basic Tips to Protect Your Privacy
Hide Your Personal Info by Editing Privacy Settings: Head over to your good ol' Privacy Settings tab. At the bottom of the box displaying your current settings is a link to Customize Settings. Once you've clicked that you can customize who can view each bit of your information from your posts, your email address, phone number, address, photos, who can comment on your posts. These series of drop down menus on the right are your Privacy Command Center. Each item listed can be edited so that only the people you choose will see your religion or your birthday. Under customize you can even block particular people from viewing say, your relationship status or your family members.
Protect Against Spam and Use a Disposable Email Address: For an extra layer of protection against spam, or in case your email address is accidentally exposed, use a disposable email to set up your account (or change the email on your account to a disposable one). In Account Settings, update your email then choose Notifications and funnel your FB announcements to your disposable email address. You can check your email for notifications and updates without even having to visit Facebook.
13 Tricks for Beyond Basic Users
Protect Your Profile with Groups and Screened Chat
Keep it Professional - Create Friends Lists and Groups to Enhance Security and Privacy: From the home page, in the upper left you should see the option to Edit My Profile under your profile photo. From there click on featured people in order to easily create groups and lists like family, friends, coworkers, etc. You can also create lists by selecting Edit Friends in the drop down menu from Account, then clicking the Create a List button. Lists are a great tool to have at your disposal because you can customize each groups level of access to your profile.
Keep Your Privacy; Appear Offline to Some Friends: Sometime's it's just not a good time to chat, and maybe not every one of your Facebook friends gets this. To appear offline to that one friend whose chat habits pester the everloving patience right out of you, open the Chat box and select Friend Lists. Then create a new list and add the names of the offenders. Their names will now appear with a slider next to them in the Chat box, which you can slide right on over to offline (grey) when you're not able (or wiling) to talk.
Sharing and Downloading Photos
Share Your Flickr Photos by Integrating with Facebook: Yahoo! recently made friends with Facebook, which means you can now integrate your Flickr account with your Facebook profile. In your Flick account, go to Your Account, then enable the Share button under Sharing & Extending. This will automatically take your public Flickr photos and upload them to your Facebook account. Likewise, your Facebook status updates will be posted on Yahoo! Updates platforms.
Download Complete Photo Albums in a Single Click: Use Fotobounce, a Windows desktop app that also includes back up, uses advanced facial recognition to auto detect faces in your photos, and permits remote access to photos via mobile device to download full albums from Facebook in a single click.
Professional Apps and Browser Add-Ons
Utilize Your Networks While Job Hunting: Job hunting is hard, especially lately, and one of the tenets of trying to find a permanent position is networking. Since you've already been social networking through Facebook, why not leverage your connections to help you land a gig? The Branch Out app, based on the idea that it's who you know, seeks out people you might have a second- or third-degree connection to through your friends so that you can make contact at a company that you're interested in. This does mean you have to allow the app access to your friends list – where it then combs through their friends and employment information. It can automatically take information from Facebook and LinkedIn to create a Branch Out profile for you, help you create a professional profile and you can view job listings.
Easily Update Your Status in iGoogle and Firefox: The Facebook widget for igoogle will quickly put a box into your igoogle home page, allowing you to update your status right there. You can also view your news feed, make comments and chat via the box. Firefox fans will prefer the FireStatus add-on which enables you to send status updates, notes and links to Facebook and Twitter. FireStatus also displays updates via notification popups; good to keep in mind in case you hate popups. Or put a toolbar directly into the browser with the FB Toolbar add-on.
Increase Privacy: Lock Down Apps, Friends Lists, Get Notified, Use HTTPs and More
Protect Your Friends List: Sometimes Facebook makes for some awkward moments – say maybe it's easier if your roommate doesn't know that you've friended his ex, or for your boss to know you've liked the competition. In order to keep the peace you'll need to shut down (or at least shutter) your status updates. From Privacy Settings, choose Customize Settings then change Posts by me to suit your preferences (like Only Friends, or customized to exclude your roomie/boss man specifically from seeing updates - which means they won't see a notification on who you've friended). Depending on the circumstance, you might also want to consider gating access to your friends list as well. This can be done by visiting View Settings in Privacy Settings then editing the See Your Friend list.
Keep Your Apps Under Control: Apps like to run rampant on your FB profile, picking up information, sharing photos, worming into your friends list. Lock ‘em down by visiting Privacy Settings, they're under Applications and Websites at the bottom. Choosing either Edit Settings or hitting the hyperlink on Remove unwanted (or spammy) apps will take you to a list of your apps, games and websites. From here you can view information about each one including the date it was last used, and what information it pulls from your profile (under Edit Settings).
Ditch anything that isn't completely necessary – yes, this does mean that no one will be able to see which messed up care bear you are, but since the alternative is that the care bear app is accessing all your info (including basic info, contact info, photos, relationship status, profile info, and friends info), maybe it's time to decide what's more important to you. Turn Off Platform apps gives you the option to choose which apps and sites you want off – but means that friends won't be able to contact you via that app any longer and any information or settings will be deleted.
Stay Hidden from Facebook Searches: Sometimes you really just don't need to be findable – maybe you're avoiding an invite from your ten-year high school reunion or a very persistent coworker. Whatever your reason, it's simple to keep yourself from popping up in the search results section. Just go to Privacy Settings, View Settings (at the end of "Connecting on Facebook"). The first option you see should be "Search for you on Facebook," with a drop down menu at the right. Just choose "Friends Only" and only people you've added as friends can successfully find you on the FB. Or shut it down so that only you can search for yourself, and be virtually unfindable.
Start Over - Create a Disposable FB Account: If you're feeling like cutting your Facebook experience down to the minimal then start fresh. Using a disposable email, set up a secondary account on FB. Next, log into your first account and suggest the essential friends you've pared it down to. Log into the second account, and accept the requests and you've officially started fresh with your smaller crew.
Use a One Time Password to Use Facebook on Unsecure Networks: For those who make a habit of logging on from unsecure networks and unfamiliar computers: A) Why do you do that? And B) We really hope you're already using one-time passwords. All it takes is a text to OTP with the numbers 32665 (FBOOK) and you'll be sent a temporary password back in a text message. The temporary password expires within 20 minutes and can only be used once so make sure caps lock is off and you're typing carefully. See an explanation of one-time passwords, HTTPS and account notification here:
Get Notified of All Account Log Ins: Another nice option located neatly in Account Security is the feature to receive an email whenever a new computer or mobile device logs into your account – a nice added layer to alert you to possible hacks into your account. If something fishy is going on, you'll want to know sooner rather than later. You'll also be able to see all activity on your account under Account Activity which is also located in Account Security.
Protect Your Browsing by Connecting to HTTPS: To make sure your account defaults to connecting to HTTPS settings whenever available, choose Account Security (located within Account Settings). There you'll have the option to check a box next to "Secure Browsing (https)" which will, as it helpfully says below, opt to browse FB on a secure connection whenever one is available. HTTPS, for those unfamiliar, creates a secure connection on an insecure network, which aids you in protecting your account info. Note: This wasn't a feature that was rolled out to everyone at the same time so some users were reportedly still waiting as of last month. Also, some applications could be affected or blocked by this change - and by "some" we mean "most."
Hacks, Scripts, Mods and More: Tips on Chat, Backup, Privacy, Sharing and Ads
Keep Unwanted Users from Popping Up - Anywhere: If, on the other hand, you're trying to actively avoid an ex (or creeper) from popping up in profile updates, or friend finder suggestions– and you don't want the awkwardness of trying to explain why you've blocked them, then download the Google Chrome extension Eternal Sunshine which virtually erases them from your memory.
Video Chat is Available: Video chat finally came to Facebook last year in the form of SocialEyes (like many apps it's not available while using an https connection). You can see your friends face-to-face while you chat, or group chat, or leave video messages. SocialEyes will pull not only basic info from your account – including profile picture and list of friends – but it also reserves the right to post to your wall and access your data even when you're not using the app. But hey, if you want to see every one's face while you're talking to them, you're probably used to giving up a lot of privacy anyways, right?
Integrate FB Chat with Your Desktop or IM Client: If you've got an IM client like Digsby (or Pidgin, or Trillian) it's easy enough to just add your Facebook account and get FB chat in your preferred client. Or, just add a Facebook chat box to your desktop via Access Chat on Your Desktop: IM clients like social. Im, Adium, or ChitChat can all place a Facebook chat box on your desktop.
Get Email Updates on Your Social Media: If you can't access Facebook at work but need to stay updated, or are looking for a way to stay on top of all your social networking happenings, check out NutShellMail's service. A free tool that sends you an email summary of your social media activity, you can schedule what you receive updates on and when – it also works with Twitter, Yelp, FourSquare and LinkedIn.
Back Up Your Profile in Case of Disaster: If you've got a Facebook account for your business, or maybe a memorial account, or some other reason you hold the info on your FB profile dear, then you can back up the info on your account by going to Download Your Information under Account Settings. A tool that Facebook released last year, the download feature will save a copy of your photos, videos, wall posts, all messages, your friends list and other content shared on your profile in a tidy .zip drive.
Turn Off Facebook Places to Protecy Your Location: When I moved into my new apartment, I didn't tell anyone where it was for about six months. So, I'm really not the type of person who uses Location features. If you don't want these active either, here's how to ditch ‘em: from Privacy Settings, choose Customize Settings then edit Places I check in to, uncheck Include me in "People Here Now," and disable Friends can check me in to Places. Then, go to your Apps and Websites menu and edit Info accessible through your friends – otherwise inconsiderate Joe is likely to check you in at the bar, when you told your girlfriend you'd be studying. You cad.
Check What FB is Saying About You: Like a chatty, gossipy friend who just doesn't know when to close their mouths, FB will often run off at the information spout sharing way too much about you. To see what info this loudmouth is spreading, just use this link and type in either your FB name or your string of digits(the part after the / in the URL). This tool, from developer Ka-Ping, then loads all your profile info – anything that's not listed in the Metadata box is visible to everyone. Makes for a nice double check system.
Another option is to visit reclaimprivacy.org and use their drop and drag bookmark link to scan your privacy settings. While it is open source, it also might not always be current with FB's every other second upgrades.
Turn Off the Wall for Maximum Privacy: Now, this is easy enough - just go into Privacy Settings and turn off the Wall in "Personal Information and Posts" and now you have no visible way for anyone to leave you any jokes that begin "There once was a man from Nantucket" – but this is advanced because it requires the kind of social networking restraint that few average users are able to muster. This option means you get no wall, no posts, no quizzes, no filling out information, no uploading photos.
Don't Be Used as An Advertisement: Nearly every website and business is also on Facebook too, followed with a Like button, and a list of the 67 million people who like "Blank Company" – including a handful of photos that link to actual, live FB profiles of people who have friended "Blank Company". If you don't want to help anyone out with their advertising, and prefer to keep a low-profile, then one of your options is to turn off the Instant Personalization Program that puts faces on pages you've fanned. First thing to do is head to Apps and Websites, then click on the Edit Settings button next to Instant Personalization.
You'll get a pop up window with info, once it's closed you'll see further information and the option to check a box to Enable instant personalization on partner websites. Make sure this box is unchecked and you should be protected. Another option, for fans of Adblock Plus, is to add FB filters to Adblock Plus. Just go to preferences within Adblock Plus, then add each of these filters separately by clicking "Add Filter." Now you're basically hidden when you're logged on.