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How to keep Facebook on 'like' list

| Saturday, Dec. 29, 2012, 8:04 p.m.

NEW YORK — A woman I haven't spoken to in six years is pregnant with her second son. Another college acquaintance reads the Bible a lot. A high school classmate likes to rant about politics. A college dormmate thinks he works too much.

On Facebook, I'm connected to a lot of people who are not my friends. Over the years, as my Facebook friend list grows, it's made me increasingly uncomfortable that I seem to know so much about people that I don't actually know.

So as the new year approached, I decided to review my Facebook life. I took a four-week break — a “Facebook Fast” — from the world's biggest online social network.

What did I learn? Sure, there are sleazy and annoying aspects to Facebook. It connects us to each other like tabloids connect readers to celebrities, and it compels us to gossip. It often makes us voyeurs accidentally immersed in the intimate lives of people we barely know. But after eight years on the network, I rely on it for pictures and news of faraway friends and relatives. I can't quit. Like it or not, Facebook is an important part of my life.

Facebook Inc. is in the midst of trying to make its privacy policies more intuitive for users. It has added a little padlock icon at the top right of the website. When you click on it, Facebook walks you through how to change who sees what you post, who can contact you and how to review what others are writing about you.

If you're trying to curate your Facebook life, there are more steps you need to take.

Cut back on time spent

The goal: Read less and write more.

First, I disabled the app on my phone. Then I enabled email notifications for whenever someone sends me a message, tags me in a photo, or posts on my profile or in one of my groups. If someone's trying to get in touch with me, I want to know and be able to respond. Because I get the notifications, I don't need to keep Facebook open at work or check it constantly at home.

Restrict access

I hate it when people send me personal messages by broadcasting it on my profile page, or timeline, for everyone to see. I'd rather that person send me an email or a private Facebook message that I alone could see. But many people still insist on posting such messages on my timeline anyway.

To address that, I effectively turned off my timeline. Someone can still post on it, but I've adjusted the settings so that person and I are the only ones who can see that note. I can still publicly share things that I want seen broadly, like a post I wrote promoting my sister's new yoga business.

Tali Arbel writes for the Associated Press.

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