Facebook is finally allowing users to control who sees what on their page, a feature users have been demanding for more than a year. So how does it work?
We’ve given it a test run this morning to find out. Conclusion: This is useful — for Facebook users with infinite time and patience on their hands.
Facebook is basically asking users to organise their list of “friends” into different groups, and assign different privacy settings for each list. The upside: You keep your boss out of your St. Patrick’s Day photos, etc. The downside: The interface is incredibly cumbersome, especially when setting up the lists. And the new settings just give you a taste of customisation before frustrating you with its limited capabilities.
It took us 25 minutes of uninterrupted work this morning to sort our 319 Facebook friends into multiple lists. Facebook allows different friends to appear in multiple lists, which is good. But it also slows down the process: Each time we created a new list, we had to scroll through every single one of our friends and hunt for the ones that fit the category. Most lists took at least two passes through our master list.
More problematic: Even though we’ve taken the time to sort our pals into multiple lists, they groupings still aren’t granular enough. We’re happy to share some of our lives with almost all of our family, but not all of them. So do we need a subset of of our family list?
We’re also worried about the level of maintenance that that the new lists will require. For example, if you add a new photo album that you want all of your friends to be able to see, you have trick the privacy settings by not tagging yourself in the photos. This is because the privacy settings for photos only distinguish between photos that you, the user, are tagged in, and photos that you are not. So if your “family” list is blocked from seeing your photos, but you want them to see this particular album, you have to make sure that you’re not tagged in any of the photos.
We appreciate that Facebook is giving us more control of our content. But in the end, if we really don’t want someone to see something, we think we’ll handle it the old-fashioned way — and not post it online at all.