Including how to hide your most embarrassing posts
Once upon a time, Facebook was a quiet online gathering place for real-world friends to keep tabs on one another. Now it’s a neverending torrent of viral news articles, auto-playing videos, awkward political rants from distant cousins and a weekly Candy Crush invite from your 11th-grade English teacher.
It doesn’t have to be. Facebook is giving users more control over what kind of posts show up in the News Feed, which is controlled by a secret Facebook algorithm and shows a small fraction of all available posts each day. Spending just a few minutes navigating the social network’s settings menus can make Facebook a less chaotic experience and ensure that your data remains more private.
After trawling through Facebook’s hundreds of settings options, TIME compiled this list of tips to help you get the most out of your time on the world’s largest social network:
Quiet Your Chattiest Friends
Everyone has a few Facebook friends that never seem to shut up. A new setting lets you figure out exactly who these people are by listing which of your friends had the mosts posts in your News Feed in the past week. You can choose to “Unfollow” these friends, which is kind of like a stealth un-friending. Their posts will no longer show up in your News Feed, but they won’t know they’ve been unfollowed and you can still send them messages and look at their profiles. If you don’t want to go quite that far, you can also tell Facebook to simply show you fewer of their posts. These options can be accessed via the “News Feed Settings” option on desktop and the “Mange News Feed” option in the mobile settings menu.
An even faster method is to simply click the small gray arrow in the top right corner of any News Feed post and choose to either Unfollow that user or tell Facebook you don’t want to see that individual post in your feed. The same options apply for Pages.
Lists are another good way to control Facebook chatter. Place friends in the “Acquaintances” list and their posts will rarely show up in your News Feed. You can also make use of the “Restricted” list, which is kind of the inverse of the “Unfollow” option. Restricted users will only be able to see your public posts or posts in which you specifically tag them. This could be a useful way to deal with a friend request from your boss or a stealthy method to keep annoying users from commenting on your posts. Both lists can be accessed by visiting friends’ profile pages.
Eliminate Annoying Game Invites Once and For All
Maybe you’re tired of that soul-crushing feeling when your first Facebook notification in 24 hours turns out be another generic invitation to play Farmville. Get rid of these annoying app messages by clicking on the small X on the right side of the message in the notifications box. Facebook will then ask if you want to turn off notifications for that app permanently.
For more control, you can go to the “Blocking” menu in Settings and choose to block specific apps or app invites from individual friends who are probably frustrating hundreds of other people with their indiscriminate clicking.
Make it Harder to Be Tagged in Photos
Facebook won’t let you stop other people from tagging you completely, but you can prevent these tagged photos from showing up in your timeline. You can also disable Facebook’s “suggested tag” feature, which prompts other users to tag pictures that look like you. Both options are on the “Timeline and Tagging” screen in the Settings menu.
You can also remove tags of yourself from multiple photos at once by visiting the “Activity Log,” which can be accessed from the same drop-down menu that holds the Settings option (the downward facing arrow next to the privacy and notification icons in the main blue bar at the top of all Facebook pages). On the “Activity Log” page, select photos in the left-hand menu, and then select the check-boxes for all the photos you want to untag.
Stop Facebook From Using You in Its Ads
Facebook aims to make its ads as personalized as possible. Sometimes that means taking activity you’ve performed—liking a certain page, for instance—and then slapping your name on an ad as an implicit endorsement of the product. You can stop the use of your name in such ads by selecting the “Ads and Friends” section of the Ads screen under Settings.
Under an even odder setting on the same menu called “Third Party Sites,” Facebook says it doesn’t give third party websites or apps the right to use your name and photo in ads, but if the company decides to in the future, users offer consent by default. You can flip this setting so that no one will see your name next to these potential ads in the future.
Make Ads More Interesting
There’s no getting around Facebook ads—they’re the revenue driver that allows the site to be free and still be a thriving business. But users can exert some level of control of the specific ads they see. Ads can be dismissed using the arrow in the top-left corner of the ad in much the same way as posts from friends or Pages. Users can also change their ad preferences (viewable here) to ensure that ads related to specific topics, people or products are emphasized.
Log Out of Facebook Remotely
Nervous that you accidentally left your Facebook account logged in on a public computer? You can actually log off the site on individual browsers and devices from a different location. Simply go to Settings, then Security, then the “Where You’re Logged In” option. You can choose to “end activity” and log out of any browser or mobile device where your account is logged in. The feature also works for Facebook-owned companion apps like Messenger and Paper (though seemingly not for Instagram).
Get Rid of the Sidebar
The Facebook homepage has gotten increasingly crowded over the years. The sidebar, which shows a list of friends currently online and a constant stream of all friends’ social actions, is one of the biggest culprits. But click the gear icon in the bottom right corner of the Sidebar and select “Hide Sidebar” to minimize the window and get some much-needed white space back on your desktop screen.
Stop Auto-Playing Videos
The latest potentail Facebook annoyance is the abundance of videos that start playing automatically as you scroll past them. These can be an unsolicited distraction and eat up mobile data if not kept in check. Though the videos play by default, users have the option of having them work while connected to Wi-Fi or disabling autoplay completely. The exact method for changing auto-play differs for desktops and mobile devices.
Hide Your Early, Immature Days on Facebook With One Click
If you’re trying to repent for your over-sharing sins of the past, Facebook will let you quickly make any public posts only viewable to your friends. Under the Privacy tab in the Settings menu, click “Limit Past Posts” under the “Who can see my stuff?” category. This option will make older posts that were originally shared with the general public or “Friends of Friends” only viewable to your Facebook friends. Ensuring that old posts are only viewable to you or to certain friends still requires fine-tuning on individual messages and photos.