As many of you know, I logged out of Facebook two months ago. I did this because my newsfeed had become a mess of negativity. You can read more about my reasons and issues with Facebook here, here, here and here. This story is about how I took back the ability to see what matters to me on Facebook from Facebook.
Over the past two months, I have missed a lot. There are posts, photos and videos that I have not seen that were posted by people who I care about and want to see updates from. My wife usually shows me photos she took throughout the day when we spend time talking about our days before bed, but there are dozens of other family and friends who post things I care about as well. Part of me wanted to return to Facebook so I could be on the same page as everybody else. The other part of me wanted to go at least two months so I could see what it would be like to be disconnected in that way. Now that I have spent a few months away from Facebook, I wanted to return to Facebook in a way where I could see the updates from those I care about without the negative posts, ads or blatant marketing messages.
The idea I spent the most time considering was creating a new Facebook personal profile and converting my current one into a Facebook page. This way, I could post to Facebook and still have the same audience but use the new personal profile just for close friends and family. I have seen people who have grown in fame do this as they realized that their personal Facebook had became more about their professional life. I did not really want to go this route because I have never used my personal Facebook profile for professional gain. My business has grown due to my personal Facebook page but only because it reinforced to people that I am trustworthy. I don’t think that converting my personal Facebook profile to a Facebook page would be the right move. People would no longer be “Facebook Friends”, they would just be someone who had liked my page. It would also break my ability to like their content, post comments, and tag them in posts of my own. Using my wedding photography business as an example: When I go to post a photo from a wedding, I make sure to “friend” the bride and groom first so I can tag them in the post on my Photography Facebook page. If they were not friends on my personal profile, I would not be able to tag them through my Photography Facebook page. I know this sounds kind of confusing, believe me, it’s confusing to type. There are obvious benefits to tagging people in photos and posts when necessary. I don’t want to lose that functionality.
I considered either unfriending or unfollowing the offenders as their posts came into my newsfeed but with over 4500 friends on Facebook, I saw that to be a daunting task. The idea of manually having to do all of that work was overwhelming so I never went that far. I would only unfriend or unfollow people who stuck out as obnoxious or continued to post negative content that I was tired of seeing. I realized that this would not be the best option as there is no simple way to manage your friends list in an editor of sorts.
My original idea, which is what I am going to explain further below, is to create custom lists. Facebook has a feature called “Lists” which allow you to create custom lists of friends or people to follow. On Facebook, you can follow people or friend them. Following them is a one way relationship where you get their updates but they do not get yours. This is similar to Twitter when you follow someone and they do not follow you back. A Facebook friend is a two way relationship where you can see, comment, post and tag. A Facebook List displays similar to a Facebook group. The header image on the page displays random photos from the friends or people you follow in that list. The newsfeed for that list consists only of people who you put in that list. You see all of their posts, photos, videos and other updates. The only one that annoys me in a “list newsfeed” is the fact that it shows a post when someone becomes friends with someone else. However, I prefer that over ads. Facebook List Newsfeeds currently do not display inline ads. There is an ad or two on the sidebar, but not in the newsfeed. That is a win in and of itself. There are two different options for creating lists. You can create a custom newsfeed list that simply displays a newsfeed of people who you have added to the list, or you can create a custom friends list. There are differences between the two. A standard list of people can be created to generate a custom newsfeed for you to follow. This allows you to add current friends, people you follow and pages to the custom newsfeed. This would be the best option for someone who wants a feed of content to view. The other option is to create a custom friends list. This allows you to view a newsfeed for that friends list and post directly to it. A standard list gives you no option for posting because that list can contain people who are not your friend or are pages. Think of this as a Twitter timeline that contains people, companies, brands and organizations you follow. Creating a custom friends list allows me to also post directly to that list. I am not sure I am concerned with that because I will most likely return to posting content that my entire friends list can see. If I want posts that I make to Facebook to only be seen by certain groups of friends, I can create a custom friends list for that and change the privacy of my post to allow only those people to see the post.
With Facebook Lists, I can add current Facebook friends, follow people of interest and add pages to the feed. I am technically creating a custom newsfeed of information I find relevant. This also means that I can like a page or friend a person without worrying about all of their content ending up in my newsfeed. This is really starting to sound like a tongue twisting riddle isn’t it…
What you are seeing in the above photo is the beginning of my Facebook Newsfeed List. This list will contain family, friends, people of interest and pages I wish to follow. Overtime, I will be able to curate this list to contain only posts and updates from the sources I wish to see. This will make scrolling Facebook to keep up to date with the lives of my friends and family much easier. At this point, there also are no inline Facebook newsfeed ads displaying. There are a few ads on the sidebar, but not in the newsfeed. I am sure Facebook will change this eventually, but for now I am going to enjoy their absence.
If I want to post to Facebook, I most likely will start posting to my general friends list. There are people who want to know what’s going on with me that I might not want to include in my new custom newsfeed and that is ok. I may even curate a custom friends list so I can post my more opinionated posts only to those who know me well enough to know where I am coming from. Part of leaving Facebook in the first place was to get away from the negativity I received from actually taking a stance on a topic. Perhaps I should save those posts for my blog anyway.
Starting today, I am back on Facebook but I am not going to be bothered with the bulk of the content that I was once subjected to. I look forward to staying up to date with what is going on in the lives of those who are closest to me. It will take me a month or so to get this list where I want it. I still prefer a simpler platform such as Twitter over Facebook but most people are on Facebook and it is where content is being shared by the people closest to me. I still plan to post to my blog and make that my primary location to share my own content. I realize that this will bring back all of the notifications that I have not had to deal with lately, but that is ok as I know that they can be turned off or back on should I desire them. I also do not plan to run the Facebook app on my phone. I will probably post to Facebook through another app such as the Buffer App and will only browse the Facebook updates of others through a browser when I have the time to do so. Keeping up to date with content on Facebook is going to take a fraction of the time because of my curated newsfeed of family, friends and choice others. Perhaps after a few months of doing this I will post an update. I am sure that I will find some limitations with custom newsfeeds. I may even branch out and create custom newsfeeds for different categories of people and content which would make it even easier for me to see the types of content I want to view at that actual moment. I truly believe that this is the best way to use Facebook. Custom lists help you cut through the clutter and nonsense to see what matters most.
I am back on Facebook. Instead of viewing the full newsfeed of all friends, people I follow and pages I liked, I have created a custom list that will display a newsfeed of only those I choose. This is a better solution than trying to unfollow or unfriend everybody. I want to stay up to date with what is going on in the lives of those I care about and be able to post to Facebook to keep those same people updated as well.