Is there some Facebook tradecraft I need to learn?
November 19, 2015 4:27 AM   Subscribe

For the sake of relationship harmony I've created a Facebook profile. How can I use Facebook without having it become an intrustive and hateful thing in my life?

First, let's be clear. I dislike Facebook with a fiery intensity - the data-mining, the bogus real-names policy, the censorship, the advertising. There is nothing about it that I like, and I disabled my old profile years ago.

Second, some back-story: Recently, my girlfriend has been unhappy about the fact that I don't follow her on any social networks. This is because I don't really use any -- I used to, but found them to be a massive time-sink and so stopped bothering. I've no desire to go back onto Twitter and G+ and all the rest.

My girlfriend uses Facebook almost exclusively, and recently she pointed out that that's the best place for me to find the stuff she wants to share with me.

I enumerated for her the reasons that I don't have a Facebook account, and right at the top of the list was "I would have one if I could be anonymous and lock it down so that no-one could badger me, but I can't." I talked about the real names policy and how harmful it is to vulnerable people, I talked about my issues with Facebook data-mining one's entire life.

My girlfriend said that she felt that I was inventing any reason I could to not follow her on Facebook (we had an argument about Real Names; she thinks that the policy is fine and that the real problem is trolls, against who she believes it offers some protection. I disagree with this point). After some discussion she asked me to compromise: create a profile with no details on it other than my name, and to follow her.

So I did. And already Facebook is recommending to me people who I have had contact with recently, or in the distant past, and it's scaring the everliving crap out of me! I've had friends requests from people that I don't want to connect with and already people are filling up the "people you may know" list. I tried changing my name to something less identifiable (John S., for example) but Facebook balked. My girlfriend says she feels weird about me using a pseudonym, and anyway I can't change the name on the account for 60 days, so I'm now stuck with the account with my real name on it.

I've already taken some steps to make myself a bit more comfy:
  • Blocked people I definitely don't want to interact with
  • Locked down the security stuff as much as I could
  • Disabled all the frigging notifications.
What I want to know is: how can I lead a minimal-footprint life on Facebook? How can I keep it so that it's a profile that's only used for one thing -- following my girlfriend's posts -- and nothing else? Is that even possible?
posted by six sided sock to Technology (26 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
Just log in, read your girlfriend's posts, and log out. That's all there is too it. Facebook is not going to force you to friend anyone else, or post any status updates, or upload photos.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 4:37 AM on November 19, 2015 [21 favorites]

Lock down your privacy settings. Ignore all friend requests.
posted by LoveHam at 4:49 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

It should be possible for you to only follow your girlfriend and no one else. The main thing getting in the way is Facebook trying to make you follow other people. Its sole purpose in life hinges on you following people, places and things.

You'll get used to the Facebook nagging. It's very 'noisy' right now because you are a fresh joiner. Just make it a habit to check once a day to see your girlfriend's posts and log out after you look at your feed. Ramp up your privacy settings to the max. Don't hit the follow button ever and only like your girlfriend's posts. It's just a matter of will.
posted by like_neon at 4:50 AM on November 19, 2015

Agreed with what others have said.
Facebook has a very vested interest in you following other people so it can learn the connections between all of you.
Follow your girlfriend, and NO ONE ELSE.
At least once a month, check your privacy and security settings. When Facebook rolls out an update or change, the default setting is always Everyone Can See Everything, as opposed to No One Can See Anything Until I Say They Can.
posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 5:00 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Have it set so that only people who are friends of friends can friend friend request you. Have your profile not searchable by Google. Never accept or reject friend requests if you do get them. Let them sit there. And don't let your smartphone search your address book. Oh, and change your gender profile to neutral and your profile picture.
posted by taff at 5:03 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Do you have a smart phone? Can you use something like Paper or Gabi to only follow your girlfriend's feed? They strip out the stuff you don't want or make it less intrusive.

And take all the steps you can to lockdown your Facebook privacy.
posted by DarlingBri at 5:06 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

so i had to have an account to be part of a group that interacts only on facebook, and what i did is set up a fresh email address attached to literally nothing else, and used that to create my facebook account. voila! no friend requests from people who were linked to my previous deactivated account, no recommendations, nothing. i also login, check the group, logout, exit the browser, and then open a fresh window and go about the rest of my business.
posted by oh really at 5:29 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Your girlfriend is controlling. She is being unreasonable. This is something you have every right to refuse to do. My boyfriend doesn't use social media so he misses out on some of the links and cat photos I share. Oh well.

This question isn't about Facebook. It's about being in a relationship with someone who isn't letting you be yourself.
posted by sockermom at 5:30 AM on November 19, 2015 [62 favorites]

I second the suggestions to use a brand new email address that you use for Facebook and Facebook only.

Also, ever, ever install a Facebook app on your phone. Access it only via web browser. And log out when you're not viewing it.

Turn off all notifications so you are never pestered by Facebook, whether by email or text. Just remember to check it now and then to see what your girlfriend has posted lately.
posted by ejs at 5:34 AM on November 19, 2015

(I also agree with sockermom but that wasn't your question.)
posted by ejs at 5:35 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Also agree with sockermom. But if you must, why don't you just ask her for her password so you can log into *her* facebook page? You don't need a page. Unless the point is for you to "like" her posts (ugh).
posted by WesterbergHigh at 6:02 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

Also also agree with SockerMom, but I bit my tongue and answered your original question.
I would definitely have a Come To Jesus with myself about this relationship and the direction that it is heading in.
It looks like it is a long distance relationship.
Is she using Facebook to connect?
Is she using Facebook to bolster her self-esteem?
Is she using Facebook to keep tabs on you?
Is she using Facebook to control you?

We teach others how to treat us.
What are you teaching her now that you are going to regret later?

posted by Major Matt Mason Dixon at 6:13 AM on November 19, 2015

I am a heavy social media user.

My husband is not, and does not have a Facebook profile.

This doesn't stop me from sharing things I think he'd like with him via email, or a near permanently-open Google chat window.

Your girlfriend is being totally unreasonable.
posted by nerdfish at 6:43 AM on November 19, 2015 [8 favorites]

I found this the other day, which seems to do a good job of disabling the UI cruft. Doesn't address privacy issues specifically but might make it easier to use FB without being overwhelmed by all the extra stuff. You can hide all the suggested people, tabloid news, etc.
posted by erebora at 6:54 AM on November 19, 2015

I have a coworker/friend who uses a patently ridiculous name for reasons. So yes, you can get away with a fake name if you aren't caught.

I agree with others that your girlfriend is being unreasonable, not you.
posted by O9scar at 7:17 AM on November 19, 2015

she pointed out that that's the best place for me to find the stuff she wants to share with me.

I think it would be worth having an in-depth discussion about what this entails, exactly. Because I think pretty much all of my friends with limited locked-down minimal highly private accounts don't check FB even daily, much less constantly/hourly. For a lot of people, if they're not immersed in the FB universe, it's relatively easy to not pay much attention to it.

Which is to say, if your girlfriend expects to make dinner plans for the night via FB, or expects you to comment on a cute puppy photo within seconds of her posting it, or things like that, she may very well not get what she's expecting even now that you do have an account.

Having you start an account may be a compromise - expecting you to use social media in the exact same way she uses social media is past compromise and into some troubling territory. I think it's worth talking about your and her expectations and intentions for your social media presence.
posted by soundguy99 at 7:21 AM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't want to diagnose your relationship, really, but what I would suggest is that perhaps your SO wants to feel like she's communicating with you more, and you could find an alternative means to resolve that. Make it clear that you don't want to be on Facebook because of Facebook but are open to chatting, exchanging links, etc.

I closed my Facebook account but my SO is on it a lot. She either sends me stuff via IM or we sit at the computer together when she's around.
posted by selfnoise at 7:57 AM on November 19, 2015

My first reaction was to tell you to do something drastic about the relationship. But it's been covered above and that's not really the question.

I don't understand why everyone says you cannot be on Facebook with a fake identity. Is there any requirement to provide an ID upon registration? I don't think so. If I were you, I would create a fake Facebook profile with a throwaway email (I've been doing that for years and when friends ask if I'm on Facebook, I lie) that only your girlfriend knows.
posted by Kwadeng at 10:25 AM on November 19, 2015

Fyi, I didn't read the other responses.

I'm a devout anti-Facebook person as well and feel your pain. If your girlfriend is unhappy that you're not on Facebook or other social media, that's her problem, and shouldn't be yours. Is she totally incapable of sharing her life with you in other ways? Like talking, in person, about all this stuff???

Just assert yourself and say no. By all means, discuss with your girlfriend, in person, about how else she can communicate to you all the wonderful things in her life to you, oh, I don't know, like talking face to face in person, and in real time?

Or think of it this way. My girlfriend is unhappy with me because I won't use heroin daily, like she does. To compromise, I started shooting the junk regularly, but I didn't use my real name when buying from the dealer. But the dealer found out my true identity anyway (From my girlfriend? Who knows?), and he now drops in unexpectedly at times at my work and home, wanting to either talk business, or just chat and hang out. Some of the other people who are his 'clients' say hi to me on the street and are wanting to get all chummy with me at the same time, too. What's a guy to do? I don't even like heroin.
posted by kilohertz at 11:21 AM on November 19, 2015 [3 favorites]

If you do decide to go forward, I cannot recommend the FBP browser add on strongly enough. It used to be called "Facebook Purity" but for legal reasons was renamed "fluff busting purity." If you are inclined to be on FB and not have it be a hellscape of spam and loathsome shit it is the only way to proceed.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 11:57 AM on November 19, 2015 [1 favorite]

Mod note: Folks, the point about relationship issues has been made, let's keep it to technical Facebook info from here out. Thanks.
posted by LobsterMitten (staff) at 12:37 PM on November 19, 2015

I have a separate Firefox profile just for Facebook. All cookies, etc, are deleted on closing. This avoids the problem of Facebook's Like buttons on various websites leaving a cookie, which is then tied to my Facebook account when I log in.

A problem you'll find is people having your email address. Facebook will spam everyone in your address book with a request to sign up because [you] have just signed up for an account and you know them. If you signed up with or whatever, and one of your friends has that email address in their address book, a map will be created of who you actually know and who you're likely to know. If your friend searches for [your name], even before you had an account, they're likely to remember that and use it too. Information like this is Facebook's bread and butter - they're going to work very hard indeed to ferret it out. I don't think there is a way to stop Facebook being creepy with your personal info.
posted by Solomon at 1:34 PM on November 19, 2015 [2 favorites]

Oh god, if you have to do this, run noscript on your computer and disable the facebook scripts. Most major websites of any kind will have facebook scripts. Run the scripts only when you are actually about to log in to facebook, then log out, close your tab, disable the scripts again.

I'm "still" on facebook but I haven't logged into it in 4 or 5 years; I do the scripts thing only when I want to look at's facebook posts (without logging in).
posted by Hypatia at 3:09 PM on November 19, 2015

Also talk to your girlfriend about tagging boundaries.
posted by Hypatia at 3:10 PM on November 19, 2015

To remove a lot of the annoying factors of FB I rely on FP Purity as it lets me sort by recent news and hide most of the side bars. Also, I'd not join any school/local networks as it'd let people find you. Then by using a empty email it should significantly cut down on friend requests too.
posted by chrono_rabbit at 3:47 PM on November 20, 2015

Sorry, TL, DNR other responses.

I am a girl who wants her guy on Facebook, even though he despises it. (He is the king of the aluminum foil hat wearing society...I am in the running for Facebook queen)
We both had Facebook accounts when we met. I've had mine since Facebook commenced, him maybe 2 or 3 years less. He said he opened his account to originally keep up with his children. (all grown now) When we started dating, he went back and looked through all of my old (prior to him) Facebook posts, who I was seeing, where I was eating and who with, etc. and became all jealous and deleted his Facebook. This sucked for me because when he'd do something cool like bring me flowers to work (which he still does!!), I'd want to take a pic and tag him saying thanks...and, of course, to show off my amazing boyfriend. He kept his profile deleted for a little over 2 years. After we got married, I wanted to change my relationship status to "Married to Mr. Amalie-Suzette" but of course all I could change it to was "Married". He agreed to undelete his Facebook so that we can be "Facebook married". He only follows his children and me and only goes on to check it a couple of times a month.

My advice is this: just suck it up, only follow her, comment occasionally, "like" her shit that she posts and, last but OH NOT LEAST, randomly post something to your wall about her and tag her. "Great day with SuzeQ!" or "Dinner with my amazing woman, SuzeQ- at McDonalds." (Trust me, the last part might even get you a blow job.;) )
posted by Amalie-Suzette at 11:42 PM on November 20, 2015

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