Most of us have a love-hate relationship with Facebook. Sure, it’s an easy way to keep in touch with family and friends, but it’s also a major time drain and privacy killer.
There is more to Facebook than status updates, photos and comments. Here are five little-known Facebook chills and thrills.
1. Facebook tells where you are located
“How did you know I was here?” The answer: It was on your Facebook page.
Facebook is built around sharing. You share thoughts, photos, videos and news, and now you can share your location, too, with Nearby Friends. When turned on, it alerts you when friends are nearby.
Nearby Friends, available in the Android and Apple Facebook apps, is currently available in select areas. To check if you have it, open your Facebook app, tap the icon with the three horizontal lines in the upper right corner for Android users – it’s on the lower right for Apple fans – select Nearby Friends and finally, Turn On.
From here you can choose who can see your location (Note: Some versions require you to click the gear icon in the upper-right corner). By default, it’s set to Friends, and thankfully you can’t set it to Everyone. You can, however, choose a list of friends, like Family or a custom list you’ve created. Click here to learn how to create custom lists of friends and family.
You can share your location temporarily with someone. In Nearby Friends, find a friend on the list and tap the arrow icon next to his or her name. Select how long you’d like to share your location.
2. Facebook tracks you
Facebook is part of a major advertising network. It shares your Facebook profile information with other companies and, in return, gets their information about you. That allows the companies to better target you with relevant ads. It also means they’re building a detailed profile of your likes, dislikes and online browsing habits.
You can stop this tracking by visiting the Digital Advertising Alliance, which is the network Facebook uses, and opting out. Click here for the instructions and more details on how opting out works.
You will also need to opt out of targeted ads on your smartphone or tablet. Click here to learn how to find the right settings.
3. Facebook adds fun
When you send text messages or emails, you can include those cute little smiley faces, called emojis or emoticons. So why can’t you put emojis in Facebook posts?
Facebook actually has more than 400 emoticons in its library – if you know how to create them.
These go way beyond just the smileys and hearts. There are emojis for professions, body parts, food, animals, flowers, weather, buildings, vehicles, holidays, directions and more. Sites like this one have assembled your emoticons options into a single page, so you can find, copy and paste the perfect image to match what you want to say.
You can also send fun emoticons and stickers to your friends through Facebook chat or comments. In the chat or comment window, click or tap the smiley face icon. You’ll see some default emoticons and stickers you can choose from. If you want to expand your options, there’s a sticker store where you can download additional sticker packs. Just click the blue “plus” sign in the upper right corner of the sticker window.
Bonus: Stickers are fun, but they can quickly start cluttering up your News Feed if everyone uses them. Hide them with this extension for Chrome and Firefox.
If you use Facebook messages, you’ve probably noticed the “seen at” text that appears when you open one. This tells the person who sent the message that you’ve looked at it. For the person sending the message, it’s a nice way to know that you’ve seen it, and when you saw it.
On the other hand, if you don’t respond to the message right away, it looks like you’re ignoring the sender. Of course, you could shoot off a quick response like “I’ll get back to you later,” or something similar, but should you have to?
If you use Facebook in the Chrome browser, there’s an extension called Facebook Unseen that will keep Facebook from knowing when you read a message. On Android and Apple, you can try the Facebook Messenger replacement apps Privy Chat or Unread.
5. Facebook checks your privacy settings
Privacy is important, and Facebook hasn’t always been good about helping you out in that area. That’s why its Privacy Checkup tool was such a welcome surprise. But a lot of people don’t know it exists.
To find it, open Facebook, click the “lock” icon in the upper-right corner and select Privacy Checkup. Facebook will help you set who can see your posts, manage the apps you have installed and let you choose the visibility of your personal information.