Facebook Subscriptions: Just the FAQs ma’am

Confused by Facebook's new Twitter-like 'subscribe' feature? Join the club. Here are answers to your most burning questions.

Are you confused by the mass of new features Facebook has rolled out lately? You’re not alone.

Even I, a virtual social networking ninja, find myself flummoxed trying to keep it all straight. For example: Facebook’s new subscriptions feature, which makes it much more like Twitter, but not quite.

Now you can “subscribe” to someone’s Facebook updates without being their friend, and even comment on their posts. That makes it more or less analogous to following someone on Twitter and retweeting them. But not quite.

Confused? Let this unofficial FAQ be your guide.

Hey, I haven’t even used Facebook subscriptions, yet I am already subscribed to a bunch of feeds. What gives?

By default, you’re automatically subscribed to anyone on your friends list – which is no different than it was before. What is different is you can choose which kinds of posts you want to see from each person – all updates, most, or only the important ones – as well as whether you want to see all of their photos and videos, status updates, life events, or game activity. Neat, eh?

I find myself utterly fascinating, and I believe complete strangers will as well. How do I allow them to subscribe to my Facebook posts without friending them?

First, you have to get to your Facebook profile page – not the News Feed that loads when you log on to Facebook. Click on your name in the upper left corner to get to your profile.  You should see a “Subscriptions” icon above your spouse (if you have one) or Friends list.  Click the Allow Subscribers button, and then decide if you want to be notified if anyone subscribes to you, and if you want them to be able to leave comments on your posts.

[img_assist|nid=204845|title=Managing Facebook Subscriptions|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=597|height=354]

FYI, the default is to have comments turned off and only be notified if a friend of a friend subscribes.

Great. So now a bunch of strangers can see everything I say or do?

Not exactly. Subscribers will only see posts you’ve marked as Public, and they may choose to see only certain kinds of posts – like only videos or only status updates.

If you don’t want your subs to know about it, you can choose to share only with Friends, or a list you’ve created, or customize the sharing to include some folks while excluding others.

Oops, I just marked something Public by mistake. Now a bunch of strangers are all up in my personal business. What do I do?

Chillax. You can go back later and change the status of the post so that only friends or people on a particular list can see them. Just select that post on your wall, go to the drop down menu in the upper right corner of that post, and choose who gets to see it. Your post will magically disappear from the News Feeds of your Public subscribers. If they’ve made comments on your post, you can delete them by clicking the X in the top right corner of each one.

[img_assist|nid=204849|title=Going private with your public posts|desc=|link=none|align=center|width=511|height=276]

Easy peasy.

I’m tired of all these strangers commenting on my posts. How do I tell them to shut the hell up?

Go to your new Subscribers page (which will appear right below Subscriptions on your profile) and then click Edit Settings in the upper right hand corner of the page. You can then decide whether to continue to allow Subscribers and whether they can comment. Again, though, you’ll have to manually delete any comments they’ve made in the meantime.

That creepy guy from my last job whose friend requests I keep ignoring just subscribed to me. How do I ditch this loser?

You’ll have to block him. Start by clicking on his profile. In the top right corner of his page, next to the Message button, there’s a settings button with a drop-down arrow; click the arrow and select Report / Block this person. In the following dialog box, check the box next to Block their name, and then click Continue. 

[img_assist|nid=204853|title=Block that d-- err, kick.|desc=|link=none|align=none|width=476|height=331]

When this person tries to access your Facebook profile, he will get an error message telling him “This content is currently unavailable.” Which is still a lot easier than unlisting your phone number or moving without leaving a forwarding address.

Also note: If you de-friend someone, they are still subscribed to your posts, though they can only see the stuff you’ve marked Public. You’ll have to block them to get rid of them for good.

OK, I’m no longer mad at that person and want to be friends again. What do I do?

If you have a change of heart, you can always unblock him by going to your Account menu, selecting the Privacy Settings, and then Blocked People and Apps. Click the Manage Blocking link; find their name under the Block users section and click Unblock. Which is still a lot easier than having to apologize for being such a sorehead and then buying them lunch. 

How can Facebook tell if a post is "Important" or how a "Status Update" differs from a "Life Event"? 

Beats the hell out of me. What, do I look like Mark Zuckerberg? But maybe one of my Facebook-employed readers can answer that one. Anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

TY4NS blogger Dan Tynan has more questions than answers, but no one to ask. 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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