How To Hide Almost Anything On Facebook

You don't have to look at anything you don't want to on Facebook, as there's never been more ways to hide things. Here's a rundown.

Are you tired of seeing what all of your friends are reading on Yahoo News, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Social Edition, or the U.K. Guardian? Do you not care to see what people are listening to on Spotify, Mog, or Rdio?

Facebook’s expansion beyond the like button has expanded the amount of content coming into our news feeds, yet we’ve got more choices than ever for getting unwanted items off of our screens: hide, delete, unsubscribe, unfriend, report or block.

I’ve long advocated hiding over all the others, and more recently became a fan of unsubscribing with the advent of the subscribe button. Consider these two options before doing anything more drastic like unfriending or blocking.

In The News Feed

Renovations of the news feed continue to bring new variations in how to hide, reduce the visibility of or delete things from showing up on your home page.

Within the news feed, move your mouse to the upper-right-hand corner of the space the undesired item appears in, and a grey down arrow will appear — the screenshot to the right shows what that looks like.

Click on the arrow and a drop-down menu appears showing more options than used to show up. For items in the news feed, the options are now:

  • Don’t highlight the particular post, letting Facebook know you don’t want to see postings on this topic show up at the top of your news feed;
  • Hide the individual story;
  • Report the story to Facebook as spam;
  • Alter the amount of posts you receive from the sending party;
  • Unsubscribe to whoever or whatever put out the post, or
  • Unsubscribe to a type of post from that party.

I recommend the second-to-last option for any person you feel tempted to unfriend. That way, the other party doesn’t get offended and you avoid the possible embarrassment of having to re-friend or re-like after you recover from any kind of upset.

On Friends’ Profiles

You can also adjust an individual’s visibility in your news feed by going to the person’s profile and clicking on either the subscribe, which pulls down a more granular set of options for customizing a subscription than the dropdown menus in the news feed offer.

You can choose whether you want to see:

  • All updates;
  • Most updates;
  • Only important status updates;
  • Life event information — meaning things like weddings or break-ups. This is really a placeholder for the timeline profile, which has a life event button over the share window;
  • Photos;
  • Games;
  • Comments and likes;
  • Music and videos; and
  • Other activity (this may refer to activity in third-party applications dialed into the Open Graph, including but not limited to: Yahoo News, the Washington Post, Wall Street Journal Social Edition, U.K. Guardian, Spotify, Mog, and Rdio.)

Alongside the unsubscribe button is the one labeled friend, which you can click on to put someone on a list of friends or unfriend that individual. I strongly recommend the former over the latter.

The more you use friend lists, the greater control you have over who sees every single thing you share on Facebook. You don’t even have to create any lists — Facebook now creates them for you based on current and former:

  • Residences;
  • Places of work;
  • Schools; and
  • Familial relationships.

The site also makes lists based on who you interact with the most and least, making the former your close friends and the latter your acquaintances, the ones you’ll want to hide the most things from. Ditto for family. And that segues to…

Hide Yourself

I wish more people at least partially hid themselves on the social network, although Facebook’s own Chief Technical Officer Bret Taylor recently said that a majorityof the site’s members now use the privacy settings — we’ve yet to learn which of these get the most usage, however.

One very simple hiding place can save you oodles of time on idle chit-chat: make yourself invisible to chatters, selectively or comprehensively.

Before you rush into completely hiding yourself from chat, consider making yourself available for chatting some people — during business hours, let coworkers and business associates reach you. In the evenings, allow close friends to chat with you. Or vice versa.

All of these options are tucked into a gear symbol in the lower right-hand corner of your screen wherever you are on Facebook. Just click on said gear symbol is the corner, and a menu pops up.

You can click on “available to chat” to make yourself reachable by all or none, while clicking on “limit availability” brings up a much larger window showing all of your friend lists, including the ones you might have created yourself along with Facebook’s smart lists.

The more friend lists you have, the more options you have to customize visibility in chat. You can rig chat to only make you available to certain friend lists, or make you unavailable to particular lists — but that’s the digital equivalent of the adage, “six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

No matter what you call it, hiding from people in plain sight beats the heck out of having to stay off Facebook when annoying people are on the site.

Of course, there are many other options for hiding yourself on Facebook: the privacy settings in the upper-right hand corner of the screen offers you many ways to hide things.

And every time you post content to the site, an inline control lets you choose who can see your share: a globe icon means the content is visible to the entire public; a friends icon indicates that only your friends can see; and a gear icon means a subset of your friend list.

These hiding places all shifted around in September, and what we wrote about them at the time remains current. So, I’d like to direct you to our recent coverage of them — just click here — to keep this here article from turning into an encyclopedia.

Unfriend Or Block

Speaking of people who are less than pleasant, I have rethought my own approach to people I might not need to deal with right now — okay, one particular ex. Said individual just blocked me, but it’s for my own good! (We still communicate via phone and email but now I don’t have to see how much better looking my ex’s harem has gotten now that I’m not part of it.)

Seriously, though, I still believe that the path of least resistance is hiding content or unsubscribing rather than unfriending exes, although I realize that some people simply need to sever contact forever.

If someone upsets you now, that might change in the future: You might make up, and then you’d have to consider re-friending. That lets the party know you unfriended in the first place. Sure, some people proactively look for possible unfriendings, but a fair amount of the time these deletions go unnoticed until a request to refriend that party goes out. I recommend blocking only for dealing with threats of any kind.

While Facebook does let you remove blocks, the site doesn’t let you do it more than once in a 48-hour period. So don’t block in the first place unless you really mean it.

Open Graph Applications

Other situations might vary depending on the sender or type of content. Some of these are still in development, which partly explains why we all see so many posts in our news feeds about what friends are reading on Yahoo News, listening to on Spotify and so on.

Facebook has recommended that third-party content providers using the Open Graph make these services opt-in rather than opt-out, which is what most of them are now.

Until opt-in becomes a reality for these applications, we all need to use the other methods described in this post to keep our friends’ listening and reading habits from cluttering our news feeds.

Additionally, we can do unto others as we hope they will do unto us: Only use the third-party applications that let you opt out of sharing updates with all of your friends, and make sure you select that on your account. Delete applications that send too many stories out to your friends’ news feeds by clicking on the privacy settings in the upper-right-hand corner of the screen, and then select “remove spammy apps.”

Then the next time you’re reading news stories on website that prompts you to connect with Facebook to enable a “social reader” edition of the publication, click around that prompt to avoid reinstalling an app that will spam all your friends.

As far as I know, Spotify is currently the only application that has such an opt-out capability, but perhaps someday soon all of the others will follow suit.

In the mean time, I hide all news feed stories concerning which music friends are listening to and which news articles they’re reading. Imagine if everyone else did the same!

Readers, what are you hiding on Facebook?