With friends like these, who needs enemas?

Facebook is introducing a Google+-like "smarter" friend list. It's finally time to draw a line between friends and faux.

Facebook friends lists just got smarter. Your friends themselves? Not so much.

Today, Facebook unveiled yet another entry in the we’re-not-desperately-trying-to-imitate-Google+-we’ve-been-planning-this-for-years-(really) sweepstakes: Better friends lists.

What does that mean, exactly?

For one thing, it means Facebook will automatically generate lists for friends who fit into Work, School, Family and City categories based on their profiles. For another, it will also allow you to separate “close” friends from mere acquaintances.

The best part? You’ll be able to segregate news feeds, so you can elect to see only posts made by close friends or family, as opposed to the usual bunch of social media posers. Similarly, you can restrict who sees your own posts to select lists of friends without having to jump through hoops. This is something I’ve been wishing Facebook would let me do for quite a while now.

[img_assist|nid=203031|title=Facebook: Separating friend from faux|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=640|height=324]

Screen shot courtesy of The Facebook Blog. 

What does this sound like, everyone? Yes, that’s right, Google+ Circles. (And also, for those of you who’ve been paying close attention, Diaspora’s Aspects.)

Sadly, as is often the case, the announcement precedes the actual change, at least for my account. So while I’d like to report on how well this actually works (or as is often the case, doesn’t work), I cannot. Tune in tomorrow and maybe things will be different.

What this really is: A tacit admission that despite all of Facebook’s public pretense about how your Facebook friends are or should be actual friends, we and they all know you probably have people in your friends list who have no business being there. And Facebook keeps foisting new ones upon you, via its friends suggestion feature. One of my test Facebook accounts is for a young man; I can’t tell you how many total strangers who just happen to be single women Facebook has suggested he befriend. (The other thing that account gets: lots of ads for gay social clubs.)

Another promised improvement: Facebook vows to make better suggestions for friends, though exactly how it’s going to do this is still a bit of a mystery. I’d also be curious to find out how Facebook determines who is a “close” friend of mine. What kind of algorithm can determine that?

To me, this confirms what I’ve been feeling for some time: the big social networking experiment many of us have been taking part in is now entering a new phase. It’s been fun making new friends online or at least pretending to, but now it’s time to return to reality and the people who really matter in our lives. One can hope, anyway.

TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan has too many Facebook friends and not enough real ones. Visit his snarky, occasionally NSFW blog eSarcasm or follow him on Twitter:@tynan_on_tech. For the latest IT news, analysis and how-to’s, follow ITworld on Twitter and Facebook.

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