This morning the lovely Bash Khan got a few things off her chest in terms of her sheer hatred of Facebook. I must admit to smiling as I read it, as only this morning, I had to warn one of my Facebook contacts against tagging me for pointless and time-wasting lists and quizzes, etc, in terms that could probably best be described as ‘frank’. As for my personal use of Facebook, I already let twitter do my updates on Facebook and I only consult it really to view photos from family and friends, answer messages or RSVP on invitations to events. But I find all these functions – photo viewing, contact with family and friends, etc – quite useful. I just have absolutely no interest whatsoever in wasting time on anything else in Facebook. So I entirely sympathise with Bash’s frustration.
But there is a solution. You can make Facebook bearable with a few tweaks to your system, and to Facebook itself.
1. Use Firefox. If you are on a PC and still using Internet Explorer you are seriously certifiable. Download Firefox. Or at the very least, Chrome. If you are on a Mac, you’re probably using Safari. I still think you should do yourself a favour and use Firefox. It’s a million times better. Trust me.
3. Download Greasemonkey scripts to clean up Facebook. My personal favourites are Facebook Purity and the script which gets rid of all the sponsored ads. But there are dozens of Greasemonkey scripts for all sorts of improvements to Facebook as well as general surfing.
4. Build lists of users in Facebook. You can limit your viewing of news feeds from people in Facebook by developing lists of friends you actually want to listen to. Let’s face it. If you have above 150 friends on Facebook you’re probably only interested in listening closely to about 30 of them anyway. (A good guide is your Christmas card list. If you don’t send them a Christmas/Hannukah/Seasonal card every year then you probably don’t want to see everything they say/do on Facebook.) You may have other lists of people you want to hear from weekly, others monthly. And the rest you just want to dip in to when you have half an hour to kill. So when you log in, under the News Feed section on the left hand side, expand the list by pressing ‘More’, and then choose ‘Create New List’. Name a list (eg: Family) and then add people from among your friends to that list. Then when you’ve finished creating lists, whatever list you want to appear all the time when you log in to Facebook – that is, whichever list you actually want to see every day – is the list which you drag to the top of the left-hand column on your Facebook home page. I keep my family there. Then I switch to other news feeds as the whim takes me.
That should do it. Facebook suddenly becomes bearable and even enjoyable, and you won’t find half your life is lost to pointless and irrelevant content that irritates you.
There will always be some maintenance you have to do to keep it bearable. Issuing notices to new friends to make it very clear that you will de-friend them if they tag you in quizzes and so on, will be necessary. And you will need to update your greasemonkey scripts on a regular basis. But whatever your thoughts about Facebook, its value as an information source is undeniable, and the opportunity to feel connected to friends and family is fantastic. You just have to tweak the interface – and your browser – to ensure that the value of Facebook is not lost amid its otherwise dominant noise.