Facebook Zen

  • Do you have a problem with information overload?
  • Are you frequently lured to Facebook AGAINST YOUR WILL by the evil cookie monster, ‘Cool link, dude’?
  • Do you confuse looking through your Facebook News Feed with being productive?
  • Do you wish you could quit Facebook, but fear the consequences?

If you answered ‘Yes’ to any of these questions, then you need Facebook Zen.

What is Facebook Zen?

Facebook Zen is this:

My News Feed

Oh yes. That is my News Feed. You will notice that THERE IS NOTHING ON THERE.

That means:

  • Nothing to get distracted by.
  • Nothing to time waste with.
  • No empty information calories.
  • No ‘cool links’ to lose three hours over.

And it means there is no need to quit Facebook.

Why not quit Facebook if it stresses you so much?

Because Facebook can be useful. Honestly, it can!

You probably don’t care about why I find Facebook useful, but perhaps my list will help you make your own list – AND THEN MAKE SURE THAT FACEBOOK ISN’T MAKING YOU DO ANYTHING THAT ISN’T ON THAT LIST.

Do you see?

So, for me, Facebook is great for:

  • Making contact. I once saw a guy on a bus in Croatia quickly scribble out his name on a piece of paper and stuff it into the pocket of a girl he’d been chatting up, saying, ‘Find me on Facebook!’ – just before she stepped off the bus and out of his life.
  • Staying in contact. I’ve got old, old friends on Facebook who I haven’t seen for years (not since I chatted them up on a bus in Croatia) – you never know when they might come in handy.
  • Stalking people – but on my own terms, not because Facebook thinks I’ll be interested in their lurid holiday snaps.
  • Spreading something that I have created, that I think others will find valuable. Like this blog post, for example.

If you’re worried about what you’ll lose by getting a Zen-like Facebook page, then consider this:

  • If someone really thinks you’ll really appreciate the minutiae of their daily routine or that you would benefit from seeing an inspirational quote or a picture of a kitten doing ninjitsu, then they’ll either post it directly onto your wall or tag you in the post. Or tell you in person, like in the good old days.
  • Therefore, all you’re really filtering out is information vomit and spam. Or, more politely, water cooler chit-chat.
  • And, remember, you’re not quitting Facebook, you’re just turning down the volume so you can hear yourself think. OM.

If you desperately want the serendipity and spontaneity that the News Feed (let’s face it: incredibly rarely) provides, then by all means surf some of your friends’ pages and go where your finger clicks you. But make it a deliberate choice, not because you’re forced to by the Facebook News Feed cookie monster.

Most of the time we need less information, not more. Facebook Zen provides this, without throwing the baby out with the bathwater.


How do you get Facebook Zen?

Well thankfully (and quite against form), Facebook makes it easy.

If you’re a sharp Facebook user, you’ll have noticed Lists. These are a way of grouping friends. Among these lists are Smart Lists. One of these is called Acquaintances. It’s supposed to be used in partnership with another smart list called Close Friends, but we’re only concerned with Acquaintances.

Why? Because one of the features of the Acquaintances list is that people in that list DO NOT APPEAR ON YOUR NEWS FEED.

Score. Now, down to business.

First: forget the name Acquaintances. It’s just a name, you’re not defriending anyone. In fact, they’ll never even know about their demotion*. Into this list you are going to put every single Facebook friend you’ve ever made and will ever make.

Here’s how:

    1. Go to this page: https://www.facebook.com/friends/organize (sign into Facebook if you aren’t already).
    2. A page will pop up saying something like:

See less from these 8 friends in News Feed? You haven’t interacted lately with these friends. Would you like to add them to your Acquaintances list? (You’ll see them less in News Feed.)

    Haha! This is the stuff – but we want MORE!
  1. So scroll down down down to the bottom of this page and you’ll see a link that says something like: Include 163 others – now click this!
  2. Then press the Add to Acquaintances button on the right hand side at the bottom of the page.

If you have any other ‘Smart Lists’ running (like location-based or school-based lists), Facebook may prompt you to add even more friends to your Acquaintances list – just go through steps 3 and 4 above until it stops prompting you.

Et voilà! You have now pushed all your friends out of your News Feed and you now have achieved Facebook Zen.


*Except for all my friends: yes, you have all been turned into acquaintances. Sorry.

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David Charles is co-writer of BBC radio sitcom Foiled. He also writes for The Bike Project, Thighs of Steel, and the Elevate Festival. He blogs at davidcharles.info.

2 thoughts on “Facebook Zen”

  1. Hi David!

    This is brilliant – I haven’t gone for the full zen but a sort of half way state so I only get news feeds from people I really, really want to ‘keep tabs on’!

    I am spreading the word…

    G xox

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