Facebook pain

It's a social etiquette problem that's very much of our time - how to deal with friends that become extremely annoying online.

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By  Matthew Wade Published  April 28, 2008

When particular friends sign-up to Facebook this can lead to a huge leap in the number of nonsense invites you receive, so if you still want to use the site without being bugged to death, read this grumpy editor's guide to stopping the virtual rot...

It's a social etiquette problem that's very much of our time; how to deal with friends and acquaintances that become annoying as hell online.

And Facebook - as fun, and useful, and yes, addictive as it is - doesn't half ramp up the exasperation factor thanks to so-called buddies inviting you to engage with a multitude of day-draining applications.

You know the type I'm sure: Friends For Sale!, (Lil) Green Patch, What Type of Shoe Are You? The list - which now numbers over 20,000 - goes on and on, and on.

As a grumpsome hack of the first order, I'm particularly Victor Meldrewish about such invites; not only do I find such quizzes and ‘applications' a complete waste of time and energy, but I actually feel so niggled I end up harbouring negative feelings about my online friends, who I surmise must surely by now have realised that: a) I never ever sign-up to these apps, and b) it is actually possible to edit the list of who you invite to use such apps (so link these two facts people and stop inviting me!).

As with most grumbles however my moaning has been largely fruitless, as all but one of my friends have failed to realise my antipathy towards finding my sex colour or becoming a smarty pants, so this last week I've tried a different tactic: pro-actively learning and applying the Facebook settings that will ease my pain. And it turns out they do exist.

Rather embarrassingly too, some of them were staring me in the face all along. Still, I can't be the only dozy one on this front (in fact a straw poll at the weekend found that various friends would love to know how to dump such invites, meaning I'm assuredly not), so if you're similarly afflicted by Facebook frustrations, check out the steps below - and feel free to forward this piece to other victims.


1) Ignore invites from specific users

When you receive an invitation from a friend, this appears as a Request at the top-right of the main Facebook page.

- Click on the invitation.

- Over on the next ‘invite information' page, don't hit ‘Ignore' as normal, but look for and click the smaller text link that reads ‘Ignore All Invites From This Friend'.

Your pesky pal won't know you've clicked this, but it will stop their invites showing up on your screen.

2) Ignore invites from specific applications

If the new trend is that friends are inviting you to enjoy the same ‘must-have' application over and over again, follow the same steps as 1 above, only click on the small-text link that reads ‘Block This Application' instead.

This will prevent others from sending you invitations and requests for this app. It will also prevent this application ever getting any info about you.

3) Block specific apps altogether

To the best of my knowledge, it's still not possible to completely turn off ‘application sign-up' News Feeds that tell you when a friend has signed up to yet another new app.

What you can do however - as an alternative to ignoring all invites from that friend (detailed in step 1 above) - is to block an app altogether, meaning you'll never find out if any of your friends have signed up to it.

You can do this when a friend installs the app. This friend's action will appear on your News Feed with a sentence like ‘Bob added the ‘xxxx' application'.

- When you see this News Feed event, click the name of the application your pal has installed. This will take you to that application's information page.

- Near the top right of that page, click ‘Block Application' and confirm your choice.

If a friend hasn't recently added the niggly app in question but you know its name, search it out instead using FB's search function and block it that way.

4) Prioritise friends' news worthiness

You can prioritise your friends' actions - which you find out about via your News Feed - via the preference slider page.

- On your Facebook main page, scroll right the way down to the bottom of your News Feed and hit the ‘Preferences' text link.

- The next slider page allows you to prioritise the kind of information you're interested in - slider ‘up' means it's of interest, slider ‘down' means you couldn't care less (though, annoyingly, pulling a slider to zero doesn't kill such news completely).

More interestingly still, there are also two ‘More/Less About' name boxes, into which you can add friends' names to receive more or less news about them, as and when it happens.

- Therefore, if an acquaintance is only your virtual friend out of politeness but it turns out they're also a Facebook freak and thus really quite annoying, enter their name in the ‘Less About These Friends' box.

That's as good as it gets at present, unless you're feeling brave enough to delete your frustrator from your FB friends list.

5) Don't be a culprit yourself!
Despite being a grumpy so-and-so, you probably have some applications installed yourself. And if these update regularly, your friends could potentially be receiving a lot of News Feed, which you know might annoy them just as much as it does you.- At the Applications list at the left of your Facebook page, click the Edit text link.

- In the Settings dialog box that appears, uncheck the News Feed option (so that your friends aren't updated when you answer a new ‘10 Second Interview' question for example).

- Alternatively, to stop anyone even knowing you have the app, click the ‘Who can see this?' pull-down at the top of the box and choose ‘No one'.

Also, be a kind user and adjust your own News Feed settings so that every little action you take on Facebook isn't communicated to your entire friends list (to my mind, everyone should do this one...):

- Click the top-right Privacy link on the Facebook main page.

- Hit the ‘News Feed & Mini Feed' link.

Here you can uncheck various news ‘events' so that all of your friends aren't told about it each time you write on someone's wall or leave a network. Get unchecking then, and don't be shy about it (Think: would I really care if my friend had carried out this particular action themselves?).

Got any more Facebook tweaking tips? Feel free to leave a comment below or e-mail your thoughts to the Windows Middle East team on windows@itp.com. Happy, and stress-free, Facebooking...

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