By September 23, 2011

Using Facebook’s New List System

One of my most popular posts on Gibberish is how to manage your Facebook content via groups of people. Over two and a half years later, Facebook has finally released the same functionality — without all of the setup.

Here’s how to use Facebook’s new List system, and some of the improvements they need to make before they catch up with Google+’s outstanding privacy settings.

Why you need this

Lists (or the old way of using groups) is useful if you’ve ever wanted to keep some of your Facebook photos and posts private from someone on your friends list. For example, your boss doesn’t need to know that you spent the night before a big deadline out drinking and playing darts. I don’t want some of my co-workers to know about my blog. Parents may not want to show pictures of their children to anyone but their immediate family.

There are many reasons you want to keep your content private, but I also used groups to help hide content from people I didn’t want to see all the time. I have some super liberal friends and some super conservative friends, and the last thing I like to read around election time is all of the herp derping they do. Folks get put in a list, and I hide the whole list from my news feed.

The old way

Before the Lists functionality rolled out last week, you had to do a lot of grunt work. This involved creating a group, adding people to it, and then editing the privacy settings of each and every part of your Facebook page to edit if they could see it or not. It was also all or nothing; people in these lists could either see your posts or not.

It was not very user-friendly and the functionality was obscured, but it got the job done.

The new way

The “new” way is almost exactly like the “old” way, except it’s more obvious, and list management is improved. It’s amazing reading comments from people complaining about new functionality that’s been hidden in Facebook for almost three years.

In an effort to promote the use of friend lists (and also to catch up with Google+’s more obvious and intuitive system), Facebook has added the lists to your left sidebar. They have also created some default lists for you based on information in your Facebook profile. For example, Facebook created a list of everyone I went to high school with. There are lists for each place I’ve worked, and these lists contain the friends I made there.

Facebook also creates some empty lists for you. I don’t find these useful at all since I was already using friends lists, but if you’re new to this whole thing it’s a good template. Some lists already have people in it — for example, Facebook pre-filled my “Family” list for me, but that’s also because I’d previously identified people as my relatives.

“Close friends” would be great if it was automatically filled with the people you interacted with the most on Facebook. As-is, it’s just a pre-named list that you have to add people to manually.

The worst thing about the pre-made lists is that you can’t delete them easily. I don’t need an empty list named “Restricted,” I have one named “Siberia.” The only way to get rid of them is to:

  • Combine the lists.
  • Rename “Restricted” back to Siberia.
  • Go back into your default privacy settings, delete everyone who was in the original Siberia list, and re-add the “new” Siberia list.

Depending on how segregated your Facebook activity is, you may be removing a lot of names from your privacy settings. I think that Facebook explodes any list that you merge instead of just renaming the group. It’s a weird way to manage group permissions.

You can choose what types of news to see from your lists. I don’t like getting status updates on the Facebook games that people play, so I removed game updates from my feed.

update type

Posting to a list

Once you’ve created a list (or if you’re using Facebook’s pre-generated lists) you may post to just that list. You may only post to one, and only one, list at a time, so that’s a big drawback compared to how Google+ handles things.


You can change what list sees your post. This doesn’t allow multiple lists to see your post, despite what the Facebook interface indicates. In other parts of Facebook, this dropdown menu allows you to do multiple selects. This one, for some reason, does not.


That’s it — pretty simple, but now more apparent and more granular than how it used to be.

List management

You might have a ton of lists on the left-hand side of your Facebook page. Mine was originally cluttered with the standard Facebook lists and the legacy lists I had before this new functionality rolled out. Here’s how to hide some of the lists so they don’t jam up your Facebook page.

Hover your mouse over the word “LISTS” on the left-hand side of your Facebook page. The word “MORE” should appear; click it.


This shows you all of the lists that Facebook created for you and any list you’ve created yourself.

From here you can rename, delete, combine or hide lists.


Click the pencil to the left of the list you want to hide. Then select “Always hide.”

This is what my list of lists looks like now:


Hopefully this will answer some of the questions my friends have had about the new Lists functionality for Facebook. Remember that lists have two purposes — who you want to show content to, and also who you want to hide content from. By combining these two techniques you should be able to segregate your friends, families, and co-workers.

Posted in: technology

2 Comments on "Using Facebook’s New List System"

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  1. The Accountant says:

    Am, am I in Siberia :O !

    (PS I hate captcha, I always do it wrong. Hmm, is this like a turing test? Am I not sentient!)

  2. Jenner says:

    I can’t say as I like it at all. It may be easier if your lists are based on one criteria. But I have grad school friends that I keep up with on a personal level and some on a professional level. All of the sudden they are lumped into one. I have a few friends who put together ad hoc motorcycle rides and I enjoy them in that context, but I hardly need to hear about their bar exploits. I had all these nicely tucked into lists of who I wanted to see what. Now everyone in high school suddenly knows things about me that I don’t want them to know. The lists were setup without notice and they were commenting before I even knew the new lists existed. I had to lock down my account. I don’t know when i’ll have time to find everybody and move them where I wanted them. I’m intensely private about parts of my life and I don’t want to share based on the fact I worked at the same company ten years ago. Essentially I just “lost” facebook for all practical reasons.