Is there a way to do Facebook light?
July 16, 2016 8:04 PM   Subscribe

So far, I've managed to stay off of Facebook for a whole host of reasons, especially my reluctance to give so much of my information to a big corporation (and what seem to me to be ever-changing privacy rules). But a few groups I belong to are increasingly announcing events solely on Facebook. I can go look at the individual pages (though Facebook is making that harder), but it's really a pain to use it that way. Does it make sense for me to try to set up a super minimalist Facebook account? Is that even possible?

I don't want to use Facebook to communicate with family or friends. I don't want people I knew thirty years ago to get back in touch. I especially don't want to feel pressured to be "friends" with my supervisors at work (most of my co-workers are). But I don't want to offend anyone either. Is that even possible? I am very careful about my online privacy in general - there are almost no pictures of me online. I also already waste enough time on the internet, and I'd rather not increase that. Reading this, I think I probably sound like a horrible, cold, anti-social person. I'm really not. I've just never wanted to jump on the Facebook bandwagon - and I know a lot of people who have and have since quit. So bearing in mind that I don't really even understand how Facebook works, can you lovely Mefites throw some advice my way?
posted by FencingGal to Computers & Internet (26 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Yep. Use a not quite your usual name, don't let your phone sync your contacts and never accept friend requests. But don't reject them either. In fact, set friend requests for friends of friends only. Lots of people do this. Oh, and start a clean, new throwaway email address to sign up with.
posted by taff at 8:13 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: Don't use your phone for facebook, at all, ever. Don't download the "app."

If you need to use facebook on your phone, do it in a browser window, with your browser set to pretend it is not on a phone.
posted by yesster at 8:15 PM on July 16, 2016 [7 favorites]

Best answer: I did this, using a name very similar to my own, only in order to play Scrabble with, and lose Scrabble to, my mother. I added immediate relatives who asked me, or invited me, but ignored other requests (not that there were very many, because of the brilliant obfuscation of my identity). It's a sad little page, but it has served its purpose.
posted by Francolin at 8:23 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Use a fake variation of your name and an anon email you use just for FB. Don't use the app; just use it via browser.
posted by quince at 8:34 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Don't install it on your phone. It reads your location (secretly) to find out if you're near other people regularly, it reads your contact list if you let it. Very bad. And don't tag yourself in photos, the face recognition will always tag you in the future. Use a slightly fake name (Firstname Middlename). But otherwise it's fine.
posted by miyabo at 9:09 PM on July 16, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: There's no reason why you can't use any old name. You don't have to provide your ID to make an account. Just make up a name and a new email. Set up your privacy settings so your fake name isn't even searchable. Don't friend anyone if you don't want to friend anyone. Don't put in any information you don't want to put in. Don't upload a photo if you don't want to. Log out when you're done using the site. This won't actually stop them from tracking you, but they'll track you anyway. So what? They're not going to look at the names on your other accounts and find a discrepancy. It's not like this is some mystical all-knowing all-seeing eye, despite what you hear. The accounts that you hear about being taken down for the "real name policy" are from patterns that Facebook didn't account for in their algorithm, or they change their name, or they're popular and get reported by trolls. As long as you're just using this account to look at some groups, they have no way of knowing. I did this for my mom so she could look at my posts without joining. There's really nothing stopping you. The worst case scenario is on the off chance that they lock you out of the account.
posted by bleep at 9:10 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: You can make an account, have events sync to gcal and never have to actually log in. You will see all events you're invited to and you have to log in if you want to decline, though.
posted by momus_window at 9:26 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

It's a product designed to draw your engagement. I've personally found that a minimal Facebook account turns into a normal Facebook account pretty quickly, which is why I've chosen to just fully stay off. Of course YMMV, just sharing my experience.
posted by so fucking future at 9:58 PM on July 16, 2016 [4 favorites]

Best answer: Correlary to this, Facebook has a standalone Messenger App and a standalone that allows you to talk with the people you need to without actually visiting Facebook proper, once you're set up. Has cut my visits to FB by > 90%
posted by furtive at 10:30 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

As far as your work stuff... I've had lots of success smiling and saying "sorry, I don't really use facebook that much" (a total lie, but since we're not friends, they don't know that) or even, "actually I try to keep facebook to just family and a few old friends." (closer to the truth.) If you're not that close, "I don't feel comfortable mixing my personal life and my work life that way" should be fine with any reasonable person.
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 10:31 PM on July 16, 2016 [2 favorites]

Best answer: 1) Use a throwaway email address
2) Use a generic variation of your name or something similar
3) Don't upload any photos of yourself. Use a cartoon character or a sunset.
4) Set everything possible to "only me" or "friends only" look into all the options there are in your privacy settings.
5) Don't accept any friend requests. If there's absolutely no identifying information or photos on your page then if a "friend" does find it there's tons of plausible deniability that it's really you. (Or that you just don't use Facebook that way if someone really starts interrogating you.)
6) Like the pages and follow the events as you want and sync them as you want.
posted by Crystalinne at 11:12 PM on July 16, 2016

Best answer: It's definitely possible to have a minimal Facebook account. I'd avoid making up a fake name, though. It's a violation of the terms of service and could get you kicked off. More importantly, it might make it harder for others to know it's you, so they might, for example, not accept you into those groups.

If you don't want to use your real name, do something close -- ie Mac for Macintosh. I'd also suggest you use a photo that evokes you, somehow -- you from the back, perhaps -- or else others might think it's a fake account.

Facebook is becoming like a utility, an address book or new phone book. You don't have to use it a lot, but it does help to be on there.

You might want to ask a sympathetic FB user to sit down with you when you set up your account. You want to make sure you turn off email notifications (unless you want them). There are a few other things that can make it better, too.

Also, it's fine to set boundaries. You don't have to accept friend requests from anyone. Though its be weird to have zero friends--you'd again possibly look like a fake account.

Good luck!
posted by bluedaisy at 11:14 PM on July 16, 2016

Best answer: Facebook will ask you for all kinds of information. You don't have to put it in, just what's on the original signup page (name, email, password, birthday (that can be fake), gender). You also don't need to put in a photo until you actually do, then you can only replace it, never delete it. This seems like it should be obvious but facebook is really pushy about asking in a way that makes it seem compulsory. I see people talking about how they put in a fake home town and various other things because of this. Don't fall for it, you can leave all that stuff blank without trouble.

Also, I imagine that all the privacy settings are set to public by default so you probably want to look through all the settings (seriously, click everything) and make changes. It will take a while. But the reality is, if you don't actively use the account and don't give it any info then there's only so much it can expose anyway. It can't make you accept friend requests for example. And facebook will figure out where you live regardless so meh.
posted by shelleycat at 11:34 PM on July 16, 2016 [3 favorites]

One thought is to add some geographic and social-network noise / randomness to your event / group memberships: if you're actually trying to follow Alpaca Fanciers events in Albany, also follow Bonobo Fostering events in Boston.

If all your events are in a particular city, you could be giving it another signal that you're from that city. This is probably only relevant if you take pains to proxy your visits already (browser location, IP), but if it is, it'll be harder to be confident about where you are and who your friends are if you spread it out a bit. It might also be fun to observe another subculture!
posted by batter_my_heart at 1:14 AM on July 17, 2016

I especially don't want to feel pressured to be "friends" with my supervisors at work (most of my co-workers are).

I have a coworker who doesn't add any other coworkers as friends. When I asked if she was on Facebook so I could friend her, she told me flat-out, "I don't friend coworkers on Facebook." It wasn't said in a mean way and I didn't take it as such, and that was that.
posted by lea724 at 6:39 AM on July 17, 2016 [2 favorites]

It's perfectly acceptable in most workplaces NOT to add your colleagues, to say the least of your supervisors, on Facebook. Facebook is for friends and family, LinkedIn is for business.
posted by MattD at 6:52 AM on July 17, 2016

Best answer: You can also group your friends and use that to limit what different people see. Useful if you do want to friend some people but don't want to treat all friends alike. I use this a lot as I work with volunteers, I don't want to not accept their friend requests, but they get put in a group that doesn't see most of my posts. From their perspective it looks like I don't use facebook much. I've also got a group for trusted friends who get to see my angry frustrated with the world/work posts, and also to go to for advice if I'm doing job applications.
posted by Helga-woo at 8:26 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

You have to always do the opposite of what Facebook tells you. Facebook's interface has a distinctive personalty, and it's an asshole, pretending to be nice but constantly nagging and pestering for personal information. Ignore it.
posted by ovvl at 10:17 AM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Oh yeah, FB's new trick, turn it on and it shows you the photos you just took with your phone, and asks if you want to post them. They don't have my number. But hey, they have my number. I just have few friends, only follow a few, rarely share, do not synch anything, either in my phone or on facebook. I keep location off, I never tag photos, lie to facebook about where I live, where I was born. Still, I took a picture of the inside of my purse, with a really old photo of one of my daughters, showing, and it knew who she is. I erased family contacts from FB too. So...I do keep it down.
posted by Oyéah at 12:14 PM on July 17, 2016

Best answer: lie to facebook about where I live, where I was born.

This is actually the kind of thing I'm talking about, there's no reason to tell facebook anything about where you live or where you were born. Just leave everything blank.

And yeah, the image recognition stuff is rather creepy by now so keep it away from photos of all kinds.
posted by shelleycat at 12:24 PM on July 17, 2016

I'd avoid making up a fake name, though

FWIW, I've been masquerading as Limp Bizkit vocalist Fred Durst for years and they haven't noticed. (I needed a name, turned on the radio, typed in the first singer I heard. I made it 'Frederick' for good measure.) Either there are a lot of Frederick Dursts out there, or I'm not the only one who's using his name.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 4:34 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

If you're worried about getting sucked in to all the noise and chatter, unfollow everyone you're friends with. The facebook timeline is garbage anyway. If you don't follow anyone then your timeline is all you, and you can go to fb for Events or whatever without getting distracted.
posted by mammal at 9:40 PM on July 17, 2016 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks to everyone for your help. BTW, I work in an extremely small office and am genuinely friends with several people here. I'm probably in one of the very few workplaces where it actually would be considered weird not to be Facebook friends with all of your coworkers, including superiors. That is unfortunately the norm in my office.
posted by FencingGal at 8:01 AM on July 18, 2016

Still, you can tell them you're not on Facebook and they'll never know. They'll only know if you make yourself searchable or start friending them. And even in that case you still have the right to say no. Just because nobody has already done that doesn't mean you can't. I never friend coworkers and it's a good policy that many people follow.
posted by bleep at 8:52 AM on July 18, 2016

I use a browser for facebook that I don't use for anything else... it also has adblockers installed. I don't use my VPN service for facebook reasons but I'm sure it helps too.
Once you're set up with a slightly fake name I recommend you install FB purity in your browser of choice and it cleans up all the ads and other nonsense and makes for a more minimal experience.
posted by yoHighness at 8:14 AM on July 19, 2016

If you want to see people's private events, they'll need to invite you, which means you'll need to be connected to them and for them to know who you are, which means you'll either need to be very pro active or use a recognizable (even if not real) name and email. I know one person who uses his name, no pictures, he has friends and he gets notifications for events notifications and private messaging, but he doesn't post any content nor browse at all anything that's not pushed to him as a notification (you could take the extra step of un-following people if you'd want the will power help). With that set up, I don't think there would be issues with adding co-workers if you wanted them to be able to share events. If its public events only that you're interested in, then I think this doesn't apply.
posted by Salamandrous at 10:26 AM on July 19, 2016

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