What You Need To Know About Facebook New Friend Lists Feature

Facebook officially launched its improved Friend Lists feature today, making it easier than ever to view and share relevant content with the appropriate individuals. In this article I will highlight the main uses of Facebook’s newest feature.

One of Google+ main selling points, separating itself from Facebook, is the “Circles” feature, which allows the user to create “Circles”, or groups, of people to share content with. Unlike Facebook where you add a “friend” and then you are given the option of adding them to a “list” (which no-one ever does), Google+ requires you from the get-go to add the person to one or more “Circles”. Facebook’s top brass has realised that its users are unlikely to add people to lists, so they have solved the problem by developing an algorithm that automatically groups friends into “smart lists”. These lists will be automatically created and updated based on your profile and your friend’s profile. For example, Facebook will look at a variety of indicators, including the people in your family, your relationship status, your location, your place of study, and your place of work, in populating these “smart lists”.

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Initially, your friends will be grouped into the following four “smart lists”:

  • Work – your place of employment
  • School – your place of study
  • Family – your family members
  • City – your location which you can customise by demarcating a particular radius

There’s basically nothing that you need to do. Later on, it is likely that Facebook will expand the lists based on other factors, such as common interests. For example, you may want to share a photo of a concert with all your friends who are fans of the band in question.

Facebook will also give you the option of adding and removing friends from the “smart lists” manually to ensure they remain accurate.

Facebook’s News Feed is an efficient method of keeping track of what your friends are up to. However, if you have a lot of friends, then the feed can become very busy and you may miss important updates from close friends. To solve this problem, Facebook allows you to add your closest friends to a “Close Friends list”. All updates from everyone in this list will appear on your Facebook News Feed and you can even receive notifications when new updates appear.

Conversely, you may have a group of friends, such as old classmates and business contacts, who you do not really keep in touch with and wish to see less of in the News Feed. You can add this group of individuals to the “Acquaintances list” and Facebook will filter out most of their updates, leaving only the important ones.

Finally, you can also create a “Restricted list” for people who you do not want seeing your posts. This is ideal for individuals who you have friended but do not really wish to share your content with, for example your boss. You can still continue sending messages to them and tagging them posts and photos.

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Note, unlike the “smart lists”, the “Close Friends list”, the “Acquaintances list”, and the “Restricted list” are all manually created by the user.

Since the user probably knows the most appropriate list for a particular person, Facebook will provide better suggestions as to which list a potential friend should be added to and allow the user to make the choice.

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Every list you have, whether automatically generated or otherwise, will have its own dedicated News Feed enabling you to view only the updates from particular friends.

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Facebook should be applauded in taking a proactive approach (thanks to Google+) on creating the new Friend Lists features. It is very difficult in drawing a balance between ensuring users share content amongst their friends and ensuring that the said content remains private. However, there are a number of issues with the Friend Lists feature. Firstly it may be impossible to identify which group a particular friend belongs to. Unless you and your friend have provided accurate information in your profile, the “smart lists” will not work.

Secondly, sharing content is dynamic in nature and it is likely that a majority of it will be shared amongst multiple groups of friends, not limited to one particular group. This will make using lists difficult, especially if content has to be posted twice to two different lists. Finally, the fact a member of a list will know all the other members in that list may cause users some alarm and hinder adoption.

In any event, it is important to mention that Facebook is not shoving the Friends List down your throats, and all the features mentioned above are entirely optional

What is your thoughts on the new Facebook Friend Lists features?