Protect Your Secrets by Changing Facebook Privacy Settings

We’ve all experienced that dreaded moment when your aunt, boss, or, even worse, your mom adds you on Facebook, and you have to frantically filter through your statuses and photos to delete any information that is too revealing. In that few minutes of culling you think about whether it’s really worth it, maybe you should just ignore their friend request, but at the risk of giving offense you decide that it’s not really worth the other drama that ignoring could cause. If this is in any way your experience, and you don’t know about changing Facebook privacy settings, you’re about to make a new best friend.

Facebook’s privacy functionality is designed to accommodate the fact that no one wants everyone to see everything on their timelines all the time. Facebook friends can be spread across a variety of groups, but the social network brings them all together in a way that would be disastrous in real life. For this reason, Facebook allows you to change the privacy of information, as well as individual posts and photos. If you do not know how to use these features, let me explain.

1. Check What People Can See

To check what people can and cannot see on your Timeline, you need to click on the gear at the bottom right of your cover photo, and you will see the option to “View As,” which opens a view of how your page looks to the public. This allows you to see what people who will look you up but aren’t friends with you see, and can help you to learn about your current privacy settings. If the public can see status updates and photos, then your photo and update settings are for public, allowing anyone to see.

If you want to see how your page looks to an individual, at the top left, underneath the Facebook title there is a black bar with an option to “View as Specific Person.” Once you have changed your privacy settings for certain individuals, this is a useful way to check that the settings have been correctly implemented, and that you have the privacy settings you want plugged in.

2. Change Your General Privacy Settings

Facebook also has a general privacy settings option. To change these settings, go to the cog on the top right hand side of your Facebook page and then click “Privacy Settings.” Here you will have general options for who can search for you, message you, and see posts on your wall. Some of your posts might be set to public, and if you do not want that to be the case you can change the settings for your timeline here. Remember, there is a list of other menu options on the left hand side of the page.

If you do not want all of your posts and pictures immediately viewable to the public, go to the “Who can see my stuff?” section on the Privacy Settings and Tools page, and select an option from the dropdown menu. Once you have created lists of friends, you can go back to amend this so that none of your wall posts appear to specific people by default, or you can change each post’s privacy settings manually as you go along. You can also change the privacy settings of old posts by choosing the “Limit The Audience for Old Posts on Your Timeline” option, retrofitting your previous posts with limited visibility.

3. Create Friends Lists

Creating friends lists is a great way to limit your information’s visibility for an entire group of people. While you can go to “General Privacy Settings and Tools,” and select specific people who can’t see any of your timeline photos by clicking the dropdown menu, selecting custom, and typing in their names, you might have an entire group of people you want to have limited access.

To create a friends list, go to the Facebook homepage, and on the left-hand side there will be a section titled “Friends.” If you hover your mouse over it, a “More” option will appear to the right. If you click on “More,” you will be taken to a page that allows you to create lists of friends. By default, your friends will be listed according to similar information, e.g. work, school, etc. To create a friends list, you click the “Create List” button on the top right of Facebook’s middle panel, give your list a name, and add your friends to it.

The benefit of a list is that once it is created, you can go back into your general privacy settings and limit audience viewing according to a whole list of people. If you do not want work colleagues to see your timeline posts, you can select that list and the entire group will automatically be hidden once you’ve input your list.

You can also add people to lists as friend requests are accepted, or on their Facebook pages. If you do a friend’s Facebook page, click on the “Friend” button on the bottom right of their cover photo, it will give you the option to add them to a list and will show you any lists they’re currently in.

4. Limit Post and Update Visibility

When you post a status update, you may notice that just to the right of the “Post” button is a little dropdown menu: here is the place you can limit your post visibility. If you hit the “Custom” option, it opens a custom privacy menu, which allows you to select people or lists NOT to share a post with. This is an alternative to blocking all posts for some people, and the same can be done with individual photos also.

5. Remove People from Your Newsfeed

If you want to remain friends with people, but do not want to see their Facebook updates, it’s as easy going to their Facebook page, clicking the “Friends” button on the bottom right of their cover photo, and looking at the dropdown menu. You have the option to completely hide them from your newsfeed, or if you click the “Settings” button underneath the “Show in News Feed” option, you can select which updates you want to receive.

These settings can also be changed from your newsfeed. When you see a post or photo in your newsfeed that you want to get rid of, simply hover your mouse over the post and an arrow should appear to the top right of the update. If you click this arrow you will be given the option to “Hide Story.” Hitting this will remove the post from your newsfeed and give you the option to change your newsfeed settings for that individual.

6. Block People You Don’t Want to See You

Sometimes you are in a situation where you do not want to be friends with a person, but you do not want to unfriend them in case they find out: that’s when blocking is a great solution. When you block a person on Facebook, they cannot see your profile at all, and unless they know you’re still on Facebook, it looks like you deleted your account. To block an individual, you simply go to their Facebook timeline, click the gear button on the bottom right of their cover photo, and select the “Report/Block” option at the bottom of the dropdown menu. A box will open that gives you the option to change newsfeed settings, unfriend, report them to Facebook, or to block them. Select the option you want, and then hit “Confirm” to make it official.

If you ever want to see a list of the people you have blocked, go to the gear button at the top of the Facebook page next to the “Home” button, and click “Privacy Settings.” On the left you will see a “Blocking” option, and if you click this you will see a list of those you have blocked and will be able to unblock them should you so choose.

If you’re concerned about Facebook privacy, the above list will help to limit what information is visible to whom, and hopefully save some of your relationships. Whether you’re worried about your grandma finding out what you do on the weekends, or don’t want to be in such close contact with a coworker, Facebook privacy settings can work to keep your information, and reputation, safe.


Elliott, Amy-Mae. “How to See What Your Facebook Profile Looks Like to Others.” Mashable. (31 May, 2013).

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