Social networking for the socially awkward
April 11, 2010 7:13 AM   Subscribe

Can I keep groups of facebook friends apart?

I have yet to join facebook, and one reason I've been dragging my feet is that I'd like to have some control over who gets to know who among the people I 'friend.' In the same way I have some friends in real life who I wouldn't introduce to other friends in real life, I'd like to be able to exercise a similar level of control via facebook. In effect, I think what I'd like to be able to do is set up groups of friends -- work colleagues in one group, friends in another, family members in another etc -- and be confident that members of a group are essentially oblivious of members in another group. Is this possible via facebook? Or am I looking at having to operate multiple accounts?
posted by anonymous to Computers & Internet (13 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
You can filter/conceal certain content (wall posts, photos, status updates) from user-defined groups of friends, but anyone you friend has access to viewing your entire friends list.
posted by availablelight at 7:19 AM on April 11, 2010

You would need to set up a different account for each group. I'm not sure how practical that would be.

If there are aspects of your life that you don't want a particular group to know about, it is best not to 'friend' those people on facebook.
posted by SLC Mom at 8:05 AM on April 11, 2010

Yeah, there's no way to do that. All your Facebook friends go into one big list that is publicly available (you can restrict it to be viewable by your friends, and not by non-friends, but you can't hide it entirely).

What you can do is control who sees what. So you could organize your friends into two groups, and present entirely different sets of content to each group. No one but you will be able to see who is in which group. You can also hide all content posted by others, so if a friend leaves a note for you, no one but you will be able to read it. It's a reasonably effective way to wall off interaction between different social circles. But if somebody wants to go snooping through your friends list there's nothing you can do to hide certain people from knowing they exist and are your "friends."

You sound as though you have secret friends you don't want anybody else (family members?) to know about. Your business is your business, of course, but I'd suggest sorting out these personal issues before magnifying them in a visible setting like Facebook.
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:08 AM on April 11, 2010

For clarity, amend my second paragraph, first sentence:

"What you can do is control who sees what, of the content you post on your profile."
posted by The Winsome Parker Lewis at 8:10 AM on April 11, 2010

What you want to do is a) kind of impossible b) only somewhat possible via a lot of careful hard work, which is kind of not worth having facebook for if you have to do this. A better alternative, possibly, would be to only be Facebook friends with some of your IRL friends and not with the other group. You can make your profile so that it doesn't come up in searches so most likely the other friends who you don't add wouldn't know you were on Facebook. But, again, this seems kind of silly. I'd understand not wanting different friend groups hanging out, but as long as you don't post stuff that is super acceptable to one group, and super unacceptable to the other group, your different groups will not be interacting on Facebook with each other on your page any more than on the most superficial level. If one group of friends is completely secret to the other, that seems a little extreme.
posted by fructose at 8:53 AM on April 11, 2010

If it's any consolation, my disparate groups of friends and family members on Facebook do not talk to each other, although they do talk to me. My way of managing Facebook is to create a friends list called "limited friends," and then adjust my settings so that my wall posts, pictures, status updates, etc. are visible to my friends, minus the list of limited friends. The folks on the limited friends list can see my profile picture, my basic personal info and work information, and nothing else. They can send me messages but they cannot see my wall or post on it. They also do not see photos/videos tagged of me or my regular status updates.

Facebook actually allows me to choose on a post by post basis who to show the content to-- if I'm writing a status that I want my whole list of 500 friends to see, I can do that by clicking on the little lock underneath the status field. The only people not on the "limited friends" list are my closest friends and relatives-- people I talk to at least once a month on the telephone, in general. They see more frequent status updates, plus vacation snapshots, pet snapshots, etc. Nothing scandalous or damaging of course, but more personal things that I don't feel I need to blast out to my great-aunts, boss, old professors, etc. etc.
posted by bonheur at 8:53 AM on April 11, 2010

Personally, I use Linked In for work, and Facebook for friends and family.
posted by mazienh at 11:02 AM on April 11, 2010

Keep in mind that any of the privacy settings mentioned above are entirely at the mercy of Facebook and could be changed at any time. Facebook has already demonstrated that the privacy of its users is not of paramount importance.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:53 AM on April 11, 2010 [2 favorites]

hi, long-time (5+ year) Facebook user here. Facebook is a powerful and useful tool for interacting with your family, friends, acquaintances and co-workers. It is also a bit evil and complex, occupying as it does an odd overlapping space between real life and the Internet.

If you decide to join, you need to consider a few things.

1) There's no good way to limit the broadcasting of your actions (status updates, posts on your or Friends' public pages ('Facebook walls')) to a subset of your Friends. You do have the option of using Facebook's private-mail system to send a group email, but there's not much function there that couldn't be done through regular email. Friends can find out what you're up to by going to your Facebook wall, and a few of your actions ("Tivalasvegas has slain five mafiosos in MafiaWars"; "Tivalasvegas has added Anon as a friend"; "Tivalasvegas wrote on Anon's wall") will be automatically sent to them as part of the news digest ('News Feed') that they see when they login, unless you manually tell the Facebook interface not to propagate that specific post, action or comment.

2) Everyone who is your friend can see and post comments on your Facebook wall. This means that your offhand status update "Yay HCR passed!" can and probably will be commented on by your angry Republican mother-in-law "what obama is the antichrist I am so angry angry angry you are a bad person socialism"; you can delete these comments, but is it worth the policing effort? Also, your mum and/or your boss, if you're Friends with them, will be able to see that you posted at 12:45 last night "pissing off the side of my building's roof onto pedestrians below HAHAHA" and this will likely result in disappointed phone calls or awkward work conversations later on.

3) Be aware that Facebook is not a public service. It exists to build a database of commercially valuable information about you and your interests and social networks; third-party apps (e.g., Mafia Wars, Farm frickin' ville) also gain free access to any info you've given to Facebook if you decide to implement them. I'm not too paranoid about Facebook collecting my actions on its site, but maybe you are.

This isn't to dissuade you from joining The Bookface. For me, it's a great way to keep an eye on what's going on in the lives of friends & family I don't see much because they live in other cities or countries (and see pictures of their adventures and/or adorable new babies) without having to actively write emails and wait for replies. Just keep in mind that everything you do and say on FB is more or less in the public sphere, and directly linked back to you, not just your Internet Self.
posted by tivalasvegas at 2:07 PM on April 11, 2010 [1 favorite]

Like internet squad.. mentions above, in order to achieve this you're going to need two accounts. Even still, if you are using the same name, people are going to find you; even more if you use real photos of yourself for each profile.

One of the blessings of MySpace (and perhaps the only one) is that because you can customize the CSS, you can delete the box that shows your contacts. You can also make your comments private. While you can hide a good portion of things from everyone, you cannot hide people from other people.

Worsening this, still, is how Facebook (seemingly innocently) is constantly asking you to befriend friends of friends that you may know. You don't even need to have any friends in common besides yourself for Person A in Group 1 to see Person B in Group 2. And if you have family/friends like mine, you may get the "Who is this? It's telling me to add them!" messages. Hell, sometimes people just add them willy nilly because they don't care.

LinkedIn is also good advice for your "professional" life/acquaintances, but again, is very easy to find if someone were to Google your name. If you're in a line of work that uses a stage name, you can also think about creating a "fan" page for yourself on Facebook that does not list your name whatsoever. Forward your second set of friends to that page instead of your personal one and ask them to use discretion. Above all, if you choose to use photos for either account, make sure to use discretion.
posted by june made him a gemini at 4:04 PM on April 11, 2010

If you make a comment on Person A's profile, and Person A does not have their security settings as tight as your own, Person B might be able to see your comment.
posted by IndigoRain at 8:14 PM on April 11, 2010

There's no good way to limit the broadcasting of your actions (status updates, posts on your or Friends' public pages ('Facebook walls')) to a subset of your Friends.

Yes and no. You can limit who can see your status updates—even on an update-by-update basis. I have a default setting for most of my status updates (many but not all of my friends), but can and sometimes do make other status updates visible to either a wider or a narrower group. Posts on friends' walls are regulated by the friends' privacy settings, however, not yours.

Everyone who is your friend can see and post comments on your Facebook wall.

That's the default setting, but it too can be changed to prevent given individuals from posting comments to your wall.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 4:55 AM on April 12, 2010


Fair enough -- Every time Facebook does one of those massively confusing overhauls I half-heartedly try to figure out precisely what can and can't be done privacy-wise under the New Rules, but frankly I find it safer to assume that basically everything I do on FB is basically public, and to self-censor accordingly. You just never know when the procedures will change again. You have motivated me now, however, to go take another look at the damn site.


Have you spent any time on a friend's Facebook profile? Maybe having some relatively savvy Facebooker show you How They Do It will help you to decide whether FB's worth the effort for you.
posted by tivalasvegas at 7:32 AM on April 12, 2010

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