Alexandra Boghosian is our resident techie. She frequently answers questions from our readers about their pressing technological issues. Here, she weighs in on the ins and outs of Facebook and other social media platforms. 

 

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Q.

I joined FaceBook so that I could “lightly” stay in touch with my family and young adult children. Frankly, I did not know what I was doing when I opened that FaceBook account.  I am a professional woman with a serious job and lots of real friends in my real world.  Gradually, I noticed that I was inundated with requests from people whom I knew professionally, and many not that well, to become “Friends.” I don’t know how they knew that I had a FaceBook account! 

A.

First of all, kudos to you for not immediately scorning social media.  It’s not easy to navigate.  In fact, I can often be heard threatening to delete my own account (one day, I swear).  Let’s start out with the basics: it’s Facebook, one word, one capital “F.”  It used to be called “The Facebook,” and that name change is probably someone’s master’s thesis.

So how did your intention to keep in touch with family snowball?  Facebook intelligently leverages all the information you give it to offer you suggestions on whom to friend.  For example, if A invites B to join Facebook, then Facebook knows that A and B are connected, and will suggest that they become friends.  It will also infer that they have mutual friends IRL (Internetspeak for “in real life”) and begin recommending A’s friends to B.  There are a variety of other ways these inferences are made.  Clever data scientists definitely write their masters’ theses on such social-network analysis problems. To get back to your question, Facebook probably recommended you to your colleagues.

Q.

I felt like a powerful sophomore on a sorority committee when I received these requests.  And I would never have been that mean girl. So, I mostly said “Accept.” Now I get rants from a woman who posts links to her antiwar site.  Not that I am pro-war, but the posts are three or four times a day. I only know this woman professionally and I agree that she is doing good work so I feel like a nasty person every time I go to my page and cringe at the 3rd post of the day.

A.

The feelings that social media stir up in us are complex. They are real enough that there’s a term for it: cyber-bullying. However, being nice does not mean that you have to accept every friend request that comes your way.  The interactions that occur on social media sites are not like those in real life. The people whose invitations you ignore can’t directly prove that you are ignoring them, and so may not feel dejected, resentful, etc.  It could easily be that you just haven’t logged on in a while.  Does this seem like moral gray area?  If you would prefer to accept all the friend requests you get, then you should definitely adjust the settings on your Newsfeed (the homepage that automatically pops up when you log in).  On the right side of every post, there is a little arrow pointing down. If you click it you can chose “I don’t want to see this.”  Facebook will hide the post, and begin to learn that you don’t like to see antiwar posts from this woman every time you log in.

How to Hide & Unhide Facebook Posts

Q.

Additionally, there are people who post photos that somehow get onto my page and I get to see someone’s cat or strange vacation photos.  This has nothing to do with me.  My housekeeper now posts in Spanish on my page with photos of every Sunday’s outing with all of her cousins.  I respect my housekeeper, but our relationship of 20 years has benefited from a little distance.  I know about the important events in her life and am there for her in any crisis, just as she knows about the important events in my life and has been there for me in all crises.  I want it to stay that way. 

A.

You can also adjust who gets to post on your wall (excuse me, I mean timeline.  It used to be called a wall.  It’s hard for even a millennial like me to keep up with this crazy lingo, which perhaps dangerously close to doublespeak).  You can actively delete posts that you don’t like by clicking the same little arrow. The more elegant solution, however, is to set restrictions on who can post to your timeline.  Click the gear icon next to your name on the upper right corner and select Account Settings.  There will be a list on the left side of the page.  Click Timeline and Tagging, and go to town.  And the cat thing is just out of control.

Facebook Pages and Timeline: Managing posts by others

Q.

How do I prune my Facebook page without being offensive? TMIF indeed!  This thing is as bad as all of those Christmas letters, single spaced and five pages long, that one used to receive from couples touting the joys and triumphs of their fabulous lives when I did not want to know them that well . . .only worse.

A.

All of the things that I have mentioned so far should do the trick.  You should also change your notification settings so that Facebook doesn’t email you with everyone’s Instagrammed lunch.  (We all know what food looks like.)  You can change this in Account Settings under Notifications.

Cleaning Up Your Facebook Notifications

Q.

Can I just close down my site and start a new site or will these zombies just lurch onto my new quiet and private Facebook site?  If I can open a new account, how can I refuse requests to become friends with people who are not my friends? I really want a site just for my family and close friends.  Can I send a note when accepting someone as a “friend” to tell them that this is not a place for bragging or marketing or promoting their blog?  Or is this many-headed hydra impossible to kill? 

A.

I would recommend doing a little spring-cleaning instead of closing your site.  You could, for example, simply delete all of the friends you are not interested in keeping in touch with.  I don’t think anyone should take this personally.  However, it sounds as if what you want is a Google+ account!

Google+ has traditionally been the neglected middle child of social media, but I have heard some buzz that it is on the rise. The reason I suggest Google+ is because it has just the feature you are looking for: the ability to keep in touch with a particular group of people.  This feature is called “Circles,” and you can easily separate people into categories like family, work, acquaintances, post-modern-knitting-and-welding-club friends, whatever suits you.  You can then keep in touch with different Circles however you please. Given your concerns, I would advise you to get off of Facebook and try this out instead. I have a Google+ account, though I don’t really use it too much.  Actually, I’m not 100% sure how I got it, but my suspicion is it is linked to my Gmail account.  Anyway, it hasn’t offended me too much, and in fact has even allowed me to broadcast a little debate with climate scientists.  Now that I think about it, it might be the better choice for me, too. You should totally friend me! (jk).