For those times when actually blocking someone on FB is socially awkward

This is my first post for NaBloPoMo 2016, and I’m cheating a bit by reusing something I wrote a few weeks ago for a friend. I hope others might find it helpful too. My friend wanted some guidance regarding seeing less on Facebook from a mutual acquaintance (MA) with whom we separately became FB friends through a shared interest (an act of naive default sociability we both now regret). This MA is the sort of person who pretends to be a moderately decent human being with just a bit of a naughty streak in public places, but who is a festering pile of putrescent vileness on one’s Facebook timeline because MA enjoys using social media for recreational sociopathy. Naturally MA does not use their actual birth name on FB, and neither does MA make their posts public – because that might have off-line repercussions.

Since MA will unfortunately potentially cross our paths in person through this shared interest so long as we live in the same city, a plain unfriending has the potential to lead to awkward conversations/confrontations that simply are not worth the bother: they would enjoy playing the aggrieved outsider far too much, and take up far too much of our energy doing so. Intrusive arseholes deserve all the passive-aggression they get.

It’s simpler and easier to just make sure that MA doesn’t get to see hardly anything of what we post, because then MA will not comment and upset our real friends, and we can enjoy our social media time instead of cleaning up MA’s messes in our spaces. I was telling my friend how I had de-MAed my FB experience, and they were curious about exactly how, so I sent them an email with detailed instructions.

Removing You-Know-Who from your FB news feed and timeline without unfriending

Hi [friend],

as discussed last night I’ve put together a few How-To links for the various levels/stages of de-[MA]ing your FB experience without the potential social fallout consequences of actually unfriending him. I meant to say something to you last night but [other friend] started saying something else and I didn’t want to interrupt and then the moment passed.

So here it is: what [MA] is doing to you with the constant jabs about [a religion friend doesn’t follow] etc would be considered a disciplinary actionable pattern of harassment (hostile environment) if you were co-workers, and he bloody well knows that. He does on FB what he can’t do anywhere else without risking employment etc, and he’s cunning about playing his mind-games under a cloak of plausible deniability (free speech, just kidding, can’t you take a joke, blah blah blah).

The right to free speech does not include the right to an audience. He’s a manipulative gas-lighting bully who likes to make people squirm in ways that make it almost socially impossible to call him on it. He doesn’t deserve the ability to be constantly intruding on your social time online, so just cut him out and enjoy the absence of his racist sexist classist culture-wars bullshit.

Links below: (I think many of these restrictive options are only available using a browser on a PC because the mobile apps are so simplified, but all the settings should sync across to your mobile device apps once you’ve adjusted your preferences on your PC)

Step 1. Unfollow

You won’t see his status updates in your timeline any more (I think you said you’d already done that, but for future reference for anybody else, it’s step 1 because it’s the simplest and you get an immediate tension release).

Step 2. Restrict

This means he won’t see any of your status updates unless you’ve set them to Public (or tag him directly for some oddball reason) – FB automatically applies the Restricted filter to your Friends-Only posts without you having to do any further custom filtering
n.b. If he directly tags you in a post (which he might do just to test your settings if he notices he’s suddenly seeing fewer of your posts) you will still see it unfortunately, but you can always simply ignore it and pretend you just missed it (in the flurry of posts from other friends) if he decides to make of point of asking.
(this article is a few years old, so the FB interface has changed a little bit, but it’s close enough to be still relevant –

Step 3. Decide on your Default audience for your status updates.

As I mentioned last night, I have about 400 comedians as FB friends, but I’ve marked most of them as Acquaintances since I stopped being a comedy reviewer, because it’s just too many to handle (for them as much as me). So now my default audience for posts as [Friends except Acquaintances] (and FB applies the Restricted filter on top). If I’m going to make a post fully Public to anyone on FB, I change the status of that post after I’ve published it, because otherwise FB updates my Default posting preference to Public going forward, so I find it easier to change it afterwards. I also have created friend-lists for shared special interests so I don’t add to the FB clutter for friends who don’t share those interests.

Step 4: Extra Credit! Curating your News Feed generally, so you see more of who you really want to see and less of what you don’t

  • 4a. Make sure you’re getting notifications from your favourite people on FB so that FB’s algorithm always puts their posts into your feed.
  • 4b.  Mark Close Friends (cannot see too many of their pet/baby pics) as exactly that, and Acquaintances (don’t need to know most of what they’re up to) as exactly that.
    There’s also a list option for Family, and you can create your own lists as mentioned above.
    This helps weight the FB algorithm regarding what gets served up more often in your feed as well (and if mutual friends start making lots of comments on an Acquaintance’s posts, FB’s algortithm will bump it to the top of your News Feed anyway, so you won’t miss the big things). I find FB birthday reminders an excellent opportunity to check my settings for whether I want to see more or fewer of their posts.
  • 4c. If you have some friends who post too many memes for your liking, you can use the drop-down arrow on the top-right of those posts to block content from the Pages they’re sharing the memes from, so you’ll still see their other stuff, and as a bonus you won’t see those Pages’ memes shared by anybody else in your News Feed either.
  • 4d. You can also choose just to “see less” from any friends who just post too often.

Hope this helps! I’ve also tightened up my privacy settings to make sure that I don’t get spammy friend requests etc, but that’s a whole other area and the above is probably enough to be getting on with.

BTW Hoyden readers: I am aiming to get back into a regular blogging habit, so I’m doing NaBloPoMo for the first time in nearly a decade. This is my first post and it’s still November 1st in South Australia for two more minutes, so I’m only nearly half a continent overdue. Lovely comments will help keep me typing!

Categories: culture wars, ethics & philosophy, relationships, technology

Tags: , , , ,

6 replies

  1. This is on my t-do list ie. work through my list of friends and set up close friends vs friends vs acquaintances vs family. I’ve got scads of acquaintances because politics, but at the moment they’re all classed as friends. With a bit of luck it will be raining on Boxing Day (there seems to be a very highly likelihood of this in NZ) so I’ll get it done there, before we head into the flurry of election year next year.

    I’m looking forward to reading all the blogging goodness to come this month.

    • I found adding this level of filtering vastly improved my FB experience. I did try and do a bunch all at once, but it became daunting, and there wasn’t any particular urgency, so just going through the upcoming birthdays as they arrived ending up being more manageable (for some of the comedians I also went through their birthday greetings and hover-moused over names to check whether I had already Acquaintanced those I don’t really know personally or not, if it was a slow day). I have them all added to a separate Comedians list as well, so on the times I really want to read what the people who are witty for a living have to say about the day’s news, it’s super easy for me to find that (although that tends to work better on Twitter now than on FB, because Twitter is better for honing punchlines (and of course I use lists to filter Twitter as well depending on what I’m most interested in that day/hour)).

  2. I had to unfollow a cousin who kept posting racist things about Muslims, after about the third argument I ahd with her about it. You can’t unfriend family members without repercussions, but you can make sure you don’t see their racist posts!

    • I found that MA and a few other swamp denizens I unwittingly friended were at least a good way to check for pages to block because of the rancid memes they generated, which has meant I’ll never see anything shared from Larry Pickering’s page ever again, for instance.

  3. I could definitely use a tune up in this regard. My default posts are to Friends except…. with about 3 or 4 different lists of exceptions. I didn’t used to have much in the way of acquaintances but I’ve recently started collecting them a little bit. The only problem is that I never really know which acquaintances are going to turn into friends and which aren’t. 🙂

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