Faceblot invisibility cloak needed...
July 15, 2017 12:06 PM   Subscribe

I want to stop a FB friend from seeing when I'm active on Facebook -- without blocking her or 'unfriending' her. It's not enough to block her from seeing specific posts: she seems to be aware when I log on, even without posting or commenting, and it's that that I want to stop.

I've got a friend-of-a-friend who's making it hard for me to use Facebook: every time I open the program I get an instant message or a video chat from her. I don't have to post anything -- I think she just sees that I'm active and messages me or video chats me.

This means I talk to her daily, often at times when I can't spare 20 minutes for a conversation. Although I like her, this is too much, and we're both talky so the calls are hard to end. More importantly, it means I talk to her instead of doing FB: I can't read people's posts or talk to anyone else when I'm blocked by video chat, so I'm losing contact with the friends, family and acquaintances that I like to keep up with on FB.

I know why she does this: I like her, we have friends and interests in common, and she's got physical disabilities which keep her isolated. She's lonely and wants someone to talk to, and I sympathize, so I don't want to block her, or unfriend her -- I like her! But I want to be able to be on FB without her seeing that I'm active -- and let her 'see' me when I have time to have a conversation.

Is this at all possible? Surely it must be, but I don't see it.
posted by jrochest to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
If you open the chat sidebar, click the "cog" icon and then click "advanced settings", there's an option to disable chat for certain contacts or disable it entirely except for a whitelist. You can also turn off video and voice chat only (but I think that's an across-the-board setting).

I'm guessing she a) has the chat sidebar open and b) is obsessed with looking at it. And, in any case, that at least half solves the problem. Worst case, if toggling the chat settings gets tiresome, you have to maintain this relationship through means other than Facebook.
posted by hoyland at 12:18 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]

I hope there's a tech solution but I have people like this in my life and I'm just really transparent with them - I say I love talking to them on FB but that I'm often popping in to get information or for work so I won't always respond.
posted by warriorqueen at 12:26 PM on July 15 [5 favorites]

Turn chat off and don't like or comment on stuff, which shows up in that activity sidebar thing (if it still exists).
posted by rhizome at 12:34 PM on July 15

If you're accessing fb from a device on which you've installed fb Messenger, also check out those settings and adjust as well if needed. Not sure if fb Chat and Messenger (a separate app) currently use the same privacy settings, but I don't think they did last time I checked, which was about a year or so ago.
posted by the webmistress at 1:11 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

Urg. So I can disable chat, or unfollow her, or do other stuff that's obvious -- or hide my activity from everyone by not having any activity!! -- but there isn't any way to make my activity invisible to her without outright unfriending her.

If I disable chat she'll contact me via other means to ask me why I've turned it off! And I don't want to have A Talk, as that just makes this A Deal.


I think FB should develop something like this -- call it the Grandma button -- to hide from people that you love and want to have on your friends list, but want to hide from when necessary.
posted by jrochest at 1:28 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

If you don't have time to video chat, don't accept the call and send her a quick message saying, "Nice to see you, alas no time to talk just now." For text messages, just don't answer until you have time. This is how my friends and I handle these things, and I think it's pretty typical for this kind of communication.

Facebook often shows that we're available even if, for instance, we've navigated away to a different tab, and it's also common to be on Facebook for half a minute at a time, checking in while you wait for something to download or the kettle to boil or while the baby's hopefully going to sleep or something, so that green light doesn't mean "I'm here and I have time to talk." I know it's hard when the person on the other end doesn't have that typical use pattern, but the only way you're going to get your time back is to take it.

You say she'll find a different route to ask why you're not available if you disable video chat. It sounds like you're in one of those awkward situations where almost anything you do might lead to an uncomfortable conversation or minor drama. You have all my sympathy because these situations are very hard to deal with. At the same time, it may be helpful to remind yourself that she is responsible for her own feelings and reactions; you don't have to distort your own Facebook use in order to avoid making her a little uncomfortable, as hard as we all know it can be to be on the receiving end of limit-setting in a friendship.
posted by Orlop at 1:40 PM on July 15 [19 favorites]

If you turn off chat, she just won't see you pop up in chat. It won't send her a message or anything. Let her assume that you're just logging on at different times and so she's not seeing you anymore.

In addition, you can make a friends list of people you want to share stuff with, and don't put her on it. That way everyone else will see your activity but she won't.

To make a list: go to your newsfeed page. Click on "friend lists" on the sidebar under "Explore." Click on "make a list." Add everyone you want onto it. When you post something, choose to share it with your list rather than all your Facebook friends.

After you've done those two things, you should be ok. If she contacts you to ask about it, tell her, "Oh, I just haven't had as much time for Facebook lately."
posted by colfax at 1:42 PM on July 15 [15 favorites]

So wait, the first suggestion to disable chat for certain contacts doesn't work? Seems like it would.

I just ignore people who chat me when I can't chat. There's no responsibility to reply. I'm not a big fan of fb chat, and most people know that, and the ones that can't figure it out don't seem too offended when I never reply.
posted by destructive cactus at 1:57 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]

This is totally possible. Full disclosure: I've been doing this to a couple of people for years. Here's a step by step how to hide your chat status from a specific person. She will still be able to message you, she just won't see when you're online. To her it'll just look like you're not online. So you'll be able to ignore her messages until later and not have her know. It's worked great for me and those people that just constantly want to chat.
posted by brook horse at 2:19 PM on July 15 [24 favorites]

I never ever use chat, it's been turned off for years, but people just use messenger to contact me (either in the browser or in the app). I've verified that if I have Facebook open in a browser (but am not actively scrolling/commenting/anything), I appear as online in messenger.
posted by AFABulous at 2:27 PM on July 15

For me, the issue is that you feel obligated to reply when she initiates contact. Guess what? You don't. Facebook is not like seeing someone in real life wave at you across the room and then you ignore them. It's more like, someone knocks on your door; you don't have to answer it. Having a phone allows anyone to call you, but you don't have to answer that either.

Just stop replying. There is immense freedom in that.
posted by I_Love_Bananas at 2:43 PM on July 15 [16 favorites]

Turn off chat. I have had mine disabled for years and people can still message me. And if she does message you just ignore it. Everyone I chat with on FB answers on their own time. There's no obligation to respond immediately.
posted by joan_holloway at 2:52 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

How about a 'sideways' solution: sign up for a new FB account, using a fake name (if you're John Doe, make FB #2 Tom Smith) and different email. Have your 'real' account (John) fb-friend this second account (Tom). When you just want to see what people have posted to the John page, sign on as Tom then look at John's page.

The benefit to this is that your friend won't see if you are there, because no: John is NOT signed on, and Tom isn't one of their FB friends. The drawback is that you-as-John would not be able to comment on or like your other friends' posts. (But at least you could check to see whether or not there IS something you want to comment on.)
posted by easily confused at 4:01 PM on July 15

When you just want to see what people have posted to the John page, sign on as Tom then look at John's page.

I don't see how this would work at all. Tom couldn't see what John's friend Mary posted. Presumably John is logging in to see Mary's vacation pics, Ray's dog pics, Steve's political commentary, etc. Tom can't see any of that unless he's friends with Mary, Ray and Steve, or those people make their posts public.
posted by AFABulous at 4:39 PM on July 15

When I open someone's chat window in Facebook, there is a setting under options called "Turn off chat for [name]" that prevents them from seeing when you are online. They can still send you messages. When you do want them to see you, you can open their chat window, click on options, and turn off this setting.

Additionally, when you go into Privacy settings, under "Who can see my stuff", there's an option called "Friends except", where you can pick friends to automatically exclude from all future posts.
posted by lookoutbelow at 4:54 PM on July 15 [2 favorites]

Turning off chat IS the Grandma button. It doesn't mean you can't chat with them or get messages from them--it ONLY means you don't see when each other is active, which sounds like it's exactly what you want? If you happen to receive a message from them while you're online, or send them a message when they're online, you can still message back and forth in real time like normal. If you're not both online, you receive each other's messages the next time you look at FB. Everything's the same except for that green dot.

It's not like they get a notification you've turned off chat for just them. Even if you blocked them that wouldn't happen. They MIGHT notice you aren't online much, but it's trivial to turn it on and off if you want her to see you're online sometimes but not all the time.

Not being able to see you're online is the only way they'd know you'd changed anything. And not being able to see you're online is the main goal, yes?

It doesn't stop them from happening to notice you just liked a mutual friend's post or whatever...I don't think there's much you can do about that other than blocking or not using FB.
posted by lampoil at 6:10 PM on July 15 [6 favorites]

Tell her you often have fb live but may or may not be doing other things, and that you seldom want to chat. But that you'd like to stay connected with her, so how about setting a time to connect every n days. Maybe you could fb chat during lunch on Tues and Thurs or some other schedule.
posted by theora55 at 7:56 PM on July 15 [1 favorite]

You've set a precedent by responding every time. Stop doing that. It's standard social media etiquette simply not to reply when you can't do so, unless it's someone very close to you, in my experience.
posted by spitbull at 7:26 AM on July 16 [4 favorites]

Turning off chat IS the Grandma button. It doesn't mean you can't chat with them or get messages from them--it ONLY means you don't see when each other is active,

This is absolutely not true if the other party is using messenger, and I have verified this multiple times with multiple people. You can verify this by leaving a Facebook tab open, contacting a Facebook friend through some other means, and asking them to check messenger to see whether you appear as active or not. I have extensively researched whether there is a setting to turn this off in messenger and there is not.

I have a friend who doesn't like to have drawn out conversations, so he just ends them with an abrupt "Gotta go! Bye!" He also doesn't respond to messages for hours or days at a time. It used to seem rude but now he's trained me not to expect that he'll be available whenever he's online. I know it's not personal because I see him IRL about once a week and he's always excited to see me (and he usually initiates it).
posted by AFABulous at 9:59 AM on July 16 [1 favorite]

Do any of these things have autoreply? If so, could you make up some pretext to put in an autoreply message—that, say, your newly-spotty internet service cutting in and out is what makes it look like you're appearing and disappearing—so that, essentially, the signal she's seeing no longer appears to correspond to when you're online?

(Though I actually think setting her expectation that you may simply not respond is probably the better route.)
posted by XMLicious at 2:14 PM on July 16

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