A few weeks ago, Facebook announced a re-vamping of the “groups” feature, in part because people were not using the Friend’s “Lists”. The press releases seemed to indicate this would now be the preferred method of aggregating your friends based on how you wanted them to view posts. Thus, if you wanted to post that you were pregnant, but you didn’t want your boss to find out, you would simply post to the group, not your wall.

So I decided to give this a try. Well, this was NOT what I expected! I created a group called “high school classmates” and set the privacy settings to “secret”. I then proceeded to add about 140 of my friends into this group. Every single one of them was notified about this group via email and they could all see that I had added each of them. I thought I was creating a secret group that would simply allow me to combine my friends – wrong!

Fortunately, I did this before I created a group called “Facebook Stalkers who I am friends with but really don’t want them to see what I am posting“. Or even a group of various business friends. If you want your friends to remain anonymous, groups are not the answer. To do this, you should still use “Friend Lists” and set your privacy settings accordingly. To create and customize your own Friend Lists, please follow these steps:

  1. Go to the Friends page. Click the Account drop-down at the top of any page, and then click on “Edit Friends.”
  2. Click the Create New List button at the top of the page to create a new list.

You can use friend lists to create different privacy levels for different groups of your friends. This allows you to selectively open more of your profile to the people closest to you. When you edit your privacy settings, clicking “Customize” for any setting will open a Custom Privacy pop up dialogue. Under “Make this open to,” select “Specific People” from the drop-down menu and enter the name of the Friend List with whom you’d like to share the content.  But this is not a way to separate some wall posts from others – it’s all or nothing based on the list.

The good news is that creating a Group did have some positive side effects:

  • I got lots and lots of thank you’s for putting the group together (even though this was unintended)
  • Many friends have now re-connected with other high school friends as a result.
  • I have also found other high school classmates whom I’ve been out-of-touch with.

So go ahead, combine your friends into groups like “classmates”, “family”, “co-workers” or whatever, just be aware that even “secret” groups are not so secret. And always remember that anything you post on the Internet, regardless of privacy settings, is stored forever in some database – Big Brother IS watching!