Facebook Lists

Now that you know why it’s important to protect your privacy on Facebook, as well as how to change privacy settings, we’ll teach you an advanced method of privacy protection: organizing your friends into lists.

What are Facebook lists, and why are they important?

Facebook Lists are important because they allow you to categorize the people in your network (your “friends”). This allows you to fine-tune your privacy settings by selecting which friends can or cannot see certain information that you put on Facebook.

You can create lists for family, close friends, and more. In fact, there are specific lists that are already available to you – you just need to add people into them. There’s also the option to create and name your own list.

Types of Facebook Lists

Facebook lists that are already available to you include Close Friends, Acquaintances, and Restricted.

Close friends – This Facebook friends list allows you to add in your best friends. By default, Facebook will send you notifications if people in this list post anything.  Of course, you can turn these notifications off if you so choose.

Acquaintances – This list is for people with whom you don’t interact often. Their posts will rarely show up at the top of your News Feed.  Also, by clicking the Audience Selector, you will have the option to select “friends except acquaintances” if you don’t want them to see your posts.

Restricted – This list is for friends that you’ve added, but don’t want to share content with at all. People added to this list will only be able to see content that you’ve marked as “Public” or posts that you’ve tagged them in.

Custom Lists –A custom list allows you to name it whatever you’d like and add whomever you’d like to create your own unique list. You can also choose custom privacy settings for the friends on the list, such as what information they are allowed to see and whether or not they are allowed to send you messages. An example of this could be “Book Club Members” or “Extended Family.”

How to Create a List

  1. If you want to create your own list, you can select More in the “Friends” section on the left hand menu.
  2. This will take you to all of the lists that you have, and you will have the option to Create List at the top of the page.
  3. Here, you can name your list whatever you’d like and add whomever you’d like to create your own unique list. Click Create when you are done.

Add Friends To A List

  1. On the left-hand menu on your homepage (Timeline),under the “Friends” section, select the list that you’d like to add friends to. If you don’t see the list, select More.This will bring you to the page with all of your lists.​
  2. Click on the name of the list you’d like to add friends to.
  3. Click inside the box in the top-right corner that says “Add Friends To This List”, and type in your friend’s name.  Then click Add.

 How to Manage Lists

  1. If you want to see what one group of friends is up to, select their list.This will bring you to a page that is like a News Feed, but only includes posts from the friends on your list. This is useful because it allows you to see what your group of friends is up to, without having to individually search for the profiles of each friend.
  2. To make a change to a list, whether it’s removing a friend from the list or changing the list’s name, go back to the left-hand menu and select More in the “Friends” section. Click on the list that you want to edit.At the top of the page, click Manage List.
  3. From here you can do a few things. Clicking Rename List allows you to change the list’s name, while Edit List allows you to find and remove people from the list. Clicking any of the options below “Updates to Show” lets you choose what kinds of updates you (don’t) receive from the friends in the list. And Delete List gets rid of the list if you don’t want it anymore.

And that’s a quick overview of how to use lists on Facebook!

How to Change Facebook Privacy Settings

Now that you understand why privacy is important on Facebook, it’s time to learn how to actually take steps to protect your privacy while using the website.

Changing your privacy settings on Facebook can sometimes be confusing. Since they can sometimes change without notice, it’s best if you periodically check that your privacy settings are the way you want them to be.

Facebook provides two main ways to control your privacy:

  1. You can set general rules for your privacy settings that control who can contact you or view your information.
  2. You can set the privacy of the individual things that you share (photos, status updates, etc.).

Using privacy shortcuts

Use Privacy Shortcuts to quickly edit and change your privacy settings. Just select Privacy Shortcuts in your toolbar to modify things like the Audience Selector, message filtering, and more.

Click the Privacy Shortcuts icon (the lock image here) in the top-right corner to make a drop-down menu appear.

At the bottom, select the See More Settings option.  This will take you to Facebook’s Privacy Settings and Tools page. Here, you can change all of your settings to be more private or less private.

Privacy Settings and Tools Page

Any changes you make within your Privacy Shortcuts will show on the Privacy Settings and Tools page. This page allows you to control your privacy settings on Facebook more precisely. We’ll go through each setting in detail below.

1. Who can see your future posts? – Clicking Edit here allows you to change who can see any information that you put on Facebook in the future, rather than having to set this for each individual post. By default, you can choose between Public and Friends. You can also click More Options to select Only Me, or a single Custom List of friends from those shown.

The final option you have is clicking Custom. This will allow you to pick multiple custom lists of friends that you want to share with, along with lists of friends that you don’t want to share with.

2. Review posts you’re tagged in – Click to access the Activity Log, which allows you to review all of the posts that you’ve been tagged in before they get shared on your Timeline. This allows you to choose whether or not you will allow whoever tagged you to do so, and whether or not the piece of information you are tagged in will appear on your Timeline. It also shows you status updates, photos and your other Facebook activity that appears in your Timeline.

3. Limit past posts – Select this option if you wish to limit the audience of past posts that you’ve made. Use this option if you have been on Facebook for a while and want to limit the audience of past posts. This may be useful if you posted something in the past that would be potentially embarrassing or offensive in the eyes of a potential new friend, partner, or employer.

4. Who can send you friend requests? – Select who you will allow to send you friend requests. Choose between Friends of Friends or Everyone. The most common option is Everyone, because you can always decline the friend request if you don’t know the person.

5. Whose messages go to your inbox? – Choose Basic Filtering if you wish to receive messages from friends and other people whom you may know. Strict Filtering will allow you to see messages from friends only; messages from others may go to your Other folder, which essentially acts as a “spam” folder, like it would with your email account.

6. Who can find you via email address? – Allow Friends, Friends of Friends, or Everyone to look you up with the e-mail address you used to sign up for Facebook. We recommend Everyone.

7. Who can find you via phone number? – Allow Friends, Friends of Friends, or Everyone to look you up using a phone number, if you provided one to Facebook. We recommend Everyone.

8. Do search engines link to your timeline? – Allow people to easily search for you when this setting is turned on. This means that your name and Facebook page may show up as a result when someone uses a search engine like Google Search or Bing. It’s important to remember that this setting doesn’t affect your other privacy settings. Any information you make available to friends only, like status updates or photos, will not be public to search engines.

Using the Facebook Audience Selector

Click the Audience Selector to change who sees what you’re sharing for any single post. The most common place to see this tool is on your Timeline or News Feed. Take a look below for an example of where to find it.

Select More Options if you want to share with a custom list or choose Only Me.

Once you click Post, you’ll share something with the audience you’ve chosen, though you can always go back and change it later.

Changing the Audience Selector will change the default setting for future posts. Before sharing anything on Facebook, you should always check the Audience Selector to make sure it is set to how you like it.


Those are some basic ways to control your privacy on Facebook.  Next, in our Facebook Lists tutorial, we’ll show you how to narrow down who can and can’t see your Facebook posts by organizing your contacts into categories with special rules.

How Facebook Privacy Works

Why is privacy important on Facebook?

Imagine that you’re sitting at home, watching TV. A random stranger walks into your home, followed by another and another. How do you prevent these strangers from coming into your home uninvited? You close and lock the door. By doing so, it allows you to choose who to keep out and who to let in.

For more on why staying private on the Internet is important in general, see our “What is Internet Privacy” article.

In additon, for other things to consider and tips for what to do when trying to keep your privacy intact on social networks like Facebook, see our “Social Media and Social Network Privacy” article.

How do Facebook’s privacy settings work?

Facebook’s privacy settings work in much the same way as the home security system in our introduction. They allow you to decide who does and does not get to see your information and activity on Facebook, such as your profile, status updates, comments, and events. There are four main sharing options: 

  • Only me: Anything shared with this option will only be visible to you.

  • Lists: You can create custom lists of friends with whom you may want to share certain information while hiding it from the rest of your friends. An example would be a list of Facebook friends that are family members.  For more on lists, see our Facebook Lists tutorial.

  • Friends: The most common option. All of your friends on Facebook will have access to any information shared using this option.

  • Public: The least secure setting. Everyone on Facebook will be able to see any information that you share using this option, even if they’re not on your friends list.

Examples of how you could use your Facebook privacy settings

  1. You may want to keep some personal information private. Maybe you want to keep your birth year amongst friends, but wouldn’t mind sharing the day and month globally. Many people on Facebook only allow their personal information to be viewed by friends, meaning that if someone stumbles upon their profile and they aren’t that person’s “friend,” they won’t see much past a name and profile picture.

    Here’s an example of what someone who is not your friend on Facebook would see if you make your Profile available only to friends.

    And here’s what people on your friends list would see if they visited your Profile.

    Note that in this profile screenshot, they can see all of the “About” information, “Photos”, and Timeline posts that aren’t just about updating the profile picture.

  2. Photos, status updates, comments, and anything you post yourself on Facebook can have custom privacy settings. Let’s say that you have some great new photos of your kids, but you only want to share them with your friends, or maybe a custom list of family members. By using Facebook’s privacy settings, you can show the photos only to people whom you think would be interested in them. 

  3. You can hide embarrassing or unflattering posts that you could hurt your character. Perhaps you made a silly status update, but only your close friends would get the joke. By using Facebook’s privacy settings, you can show the status update to a select group of people, and not to anyone who would be potentially confused or offended. 

Facebook privacy settings are important and should be taken seriously from the beginning. The good news is that once you create your custom lists and decide what you want to share with whom, they are quick and easy to set!  We’ll cover how do do this in our upcoming tutorials: “How to Change Facebook Privacy Settings” and “Facebook Lists”.