Despite its issues, Facebook remains the principal digital public square of today. While politicians may like Twitter, and most young'ns are flocking to TikTok, Zuck & Co's ubersocial network is still an important virtual venue. And plans are afoot to merge the chat functionality of Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger, so get ready for Facebook or nothing.
The last year-plus of scandals have yet to make much of an impact on Facebook's bottom line. In the US and Canada, it had its best ever quarter for ad revenue in Q4 2018, according to Statista. Monthly active users on the platform in the US/Canada continue to go up, albeit only at around one million new users per quarter.
While Facebook's business model has evolved to include its mobile incarnation and other associated apps, Facebook.com still has a faithful following. Chances are, you're still using it, even if the many scandals have you fuming.
Facebook is not synonymous with "the internet," but it boasts one of the world's most complex and multi-faceted websites. It rivals many standalone software apps with the sheer amount of personalization, tweaks, and tinkering available to visitors.
In fact, there are so many things you can do on Facebook.com that you can't know about all the official, baked-in, easily accessible functions just a few clicks away. Read on to awaken your inner social superstar.
The Inbox You Don't Even Know About
If you've been a Facebook user for a while, then you probably have a folder full of unread messages that you didn't even know existed: the "Message Requests" folder. This is where Facebook sends all the missives from people you're not currently friends with. It could be filled with old high school flings reaching out... or a bunch of Nigerian spammers, who knows?! Only one way to find out!
To review these messages, click the Messenger icon at the top of your home screen. By default, you'll find yourself in the "Recent" tab of your inbox. Directly to the right, you'll find the "Message Requests" tab. After you click this, you may see a link that says "See filtered messages." Click that and then you'll see all sorts of messages from strangers. If you see a bunch marked "Facebook User" those are spammers who've been kicked off the service after being reported by others. Delete them with joy.
See All The Friends You Requested, Ever
What about all the people you asked to be your friend who ignored or deleted your request? Facebook keeps track of that. At the top of the Facebook page click the Friend Requests icon (two people in silhouette). You'll see a list of suggested "People You May Know." At the bottom, click the "See All" link. On the next page, under New Friend Requests (assuming you don't have any) click "View Sent Requests." Then you get a list of the people who hate you. Or maybe they just don't check Facebook that much. Probably both.
See Who's Snooping In Your Account
Want to know if someone is logged into your Facebook account without your permission? First, go to your Settings page. Under Security and Login, you'll see "Where You're Logged In." Here you will find all your active Facebook log-ins from desktop or mobile devices, even across apps (like the Facebook app vs. the Messenger app). It will (usually) provide data on the location, browser, and device. If something seems fishy, log out from individual devices (click the menu > Log Out) or all devices at once (scroll to the bottom and click "Log Out Of All Sessions"). This comes in handy if you log in to a friend's laptop or a public computer and forget to log out.
Restrict Select Friends From Seeing Posts
If you mark a post on Facebook as Public, everyone can see and share it. You can make your posts open only to friends, but perhaps you have "friends" you don't want snooping on all your posts.
Go to the page of the friend you want to restrict. Click the Friendsdrop-down menu and select Add to Another List. Scroll to the bottom of the menu and you'll see Restricted. You'll get a warning that says that friend will no longer see what you post unless it's Public.
Save Posts for Later
Facebook's News Feed algorithm means that it's next to impossible to go back and find something that you whizzed past during a recent scroll. Don't lose that tasty-looking recipe or interesting article; save it for later.
Click the ellipsis menu in the top-right of any post and select Save Post/Link/Video from the drop-down menu (the same method works on mobile). This will send the link to your Saved folder.
"Where's your Saved folder," you ask? You actually won't see it until you save something for the first time. Then a little purple "Saved" ribbon appears in your left-hand favorites bar (you may have to click the "See More..." link to see Saved); click the hamburger menu on mobile. Saved Posts don't expire but might disappear if the original poster deletes it.
Check Your Facebook Time
Are you concerned you spend too much time on Facebook? On the mobile app, you can now see exactly long you spend on the site each day. Go to the More menu > Settings & Privacy > Your Time on Facebook. The bar chart will display how many minutes per day you were on during the last week. Under Manage Your Time, select Set Daily Time Reminder to be notified when you've been on the app a certain amount of time.
You can also use the built-in iOS ScreenTime feature under Settings to check your overall social network usage, and set a limit—maybe an hour per day on all social media (including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more.) Android users can try Digital Wellbeing.
There's no desktop equivalent for Facebook.com, but you could use the RescueTime extension to monitor yourself on Facebook and beyond.
Download a Copy of All Your Facebooking
Want your own personal copy of everything you've ever shared on Facebook? I'm talking, ev-er-y-thing: Every post, every image, every video, every message, and chat conversation (not to mention all the settings you probably don't even think about)? You can do that! Go to Settings > Your Facebook Information and click "Download Your Information." Follow the directions from there.
This feature lets you take a trip down memory lane, or just save your info should you ever decide to delete your Facebook account. It also reveals exactly what Facebook has saved about you. You might be surprised
Choose a 'Legacy Contact' for After You Croak
Everyone on Facebook will die. Eventually. In anticipation of this unavoidable truth, Facebook lets you name a legacy contact who will manage your account after you are gone.
Your legacy contact can write a pinned post for your profile, respond to new friend requests (e.g. friends or family who try to friend you after you are six-feet under), or update your profile and cover photo (in case your final image is you in an ironic SpongeBob Halloween costume). They can even download your Facebook data, minus any messages you sent/received. You can also choose to have your account deleted after you die. Facebook will send an annual reminder to check your legacy contact, unless you turn that option off.
Go Settings > General > Memorialization Settings > Edit to select or change your legacy contact. If you're a legacy contact for someone who's passed away, use this Memorialization Request form to tell Facebook about the person and ask to get it memorialized.
Add Some Extra Security
It's a good idea to throw in some additional layers of security on your Facebook account. A scammer could use your account data to steal your identity and/or send malware-laden links to friends.
Here are three smart things you can do to protect yourself, which you'll find under Settings > Security and Login:
1) Enable Two-Factor Authentication. It's a good idea to implement 2FA on all your accounts. That means if someone wants to access your account on a new device, they'll also need access to your phone.
2) Get alerts about unrecognized logins. If somebody logs in to your account from an unrecognized device or browser, Facebook will let you know. (If you use a VPN, you may notice you get those warnings about yourself if the VPN server is in a different state or country. That's the price of vigilance.)
3) Designate 3-5 trusted contacts if you get locked out. Trusted Contacts are Facebook friends who can securely help you regain access to your account if you forget your password or lose your mobile device—or a nefarious person breaks in and locks YOU out. You can always change your trusted contacts later, if you no longer trust them.
Edit Your Ad Preferences
Do you hate-follow any celebrities or personalities on Facebook? A while back, I gave a certain politician I don't necessarily support a follow, mostly out of curiosity. But then I noticed the ads on Facebook feed began to... change. Let's just say, I started getting ads for things I really wasn't all that interested in.
Facebook's business is built around providing marketers with detailed information on its users' interests, which Facebook's algorithms insinuate based on—among other things—celebrities and personalities they've actively followed. If you "like" something on Facebook that's a little out of your usual media diet, you have the ability to keep your ad experience in check.
To curate your ads, go to Settings > Ads > Your Interests. You can remove an interest simply by hitting the X on the upper right of each interest. Under the "Advertisers and Businesses" tab, you'll see all the advertisers whose ads you've clicked on and/or were provided your information; remove anyone you don't like in here with high prejudice. Under the "whose website or app you've used" and "whom you've visited" sub-tabs, you can choose to stop seeing ads from a particular advertiser altogether. Can you remove all of them at once? No. You can't. That would be far too convenient.
Apps Can Be Canned in Bulk
What you can do, however, is bulk delete all the apps and websites that use Facebook for log-ins. Go to Settings > Apps & Websites and you'll see tabs for Active, Expired, and Removed apps/sites. Select a bunch and log out. When you go back to that site/service in the future, it's best to do a login with an email address and password; better yet, use a password manager.
Block Facebook Mobile Browser Tracking
You can't completely opt out of tracking on Facebook, but you can take steps to web surf without Facebook eavesdropping. Opt out via a special third-party site from the Digital Advertising Alliance. (Disable AdBlocker Plus or other similar software you may be running before you visit that link.) Follow the directions, and make sure to click the box next to Facebook and you can go about your internet business without third-party advertisers getting all up in your bizness.
Curate Your News Feed
Your News Feed is your home on Facebook, so you'll want it as clean, orderly, and free of distractions as possible. You don't want to be inundated with posts from that one brand or friend you follow who just posts All. The. Time.
One of the most direct ways to do this is by giving more voice to the things you want to see, while removing the stuff you don't want. The quickest way to access this feature is by clicking the ellipsis menu next to "News Feed" at the top of the left rail and selecting "Edit Preferences" from the drop-down menu. In the pop-up screen, click "Prioritize who to see first," and choose the people, Pages, and brands you want to see more or less of in the future. The limit is 30 prioritized friends.
You can also click "Unfollow people to hide their posts" to mute annoying posters (they won't know they've been muted). You'll still be "friends" but you won't see their posts on your News Feed unless you re-follow them down the line.
You'll also find options here to reconnect with people you previously unfollowed (as if).
Turn Off Autoplay Videos
Do you hate it when a video starts without you clicking play? Kill that "feature." Go to Settings > Videos and set Auto-Play Videos to Off. Stat. You won't regret it. If you do it on the desktop, it also turns off auto-play on your mobile devices, and vice versa.
You can also turn on HD-video preference here, plus activate closed captions and adjust how they'll look.
Embed Public Content
Like other social media sites or YouTube videos, Facebook allows you to embed publicly available content on your own personal webpage. Just click the menu in the top-right of the post and click "Embed" to capture the code. Click Advanced Settings to change the pixel width of the post to suit your site, see a preview, and access lots of developer settings.
Send Money Through Facebook
There are lots of services that will allow you to transfer money from your computer or mobile device, like PayPal, Google, Venmo, Apple Pay, and yes even Facebook (as long as the sender and recipient both have a valid debit card). In addition (and of greater interest to Facebook), these payments allow users to purchase products and make in-game purchases on the social network.
While this feature is largely tied to Facebook Messenger, you can use it on regular Facebook as well. To set it up, go to Settings > Payments > Account Settings to enter a debit or credit card. Once accepted, send (or request) funds to/from another user via Messenger.
To use this feature on Facebook.com, open a pop-over conversation with one of your contacts via the Messenger icons. Click the dollar sign ($) in a circle at the bottom of the chat window to send/request funds. Cha-ching!
Transfer Files Over Facebook Messenger
If you open a Facebook Messenger window—the small one on Facebook.com—there's a little paper clip icon along the bottom. This allows you to Add Files—it uploads and sends a file directly from your computer. The receiver can just click on the included link and download from there. Of course, never download anything from someone you don't know. (On Messenger.com. Hover over it to see the Add Files designation.)
Upload '360' Pics and Vids
You've probably seen the occasional immersive "360" degree photos (and some videos) pop up in your Facebook feed in the last few years. On the desktop version, viewers can explore a field of vision in all directions using their mouse or keyboard. On mobile, users can pivot their device to look all around. It's not just for specialists—you have the opportunity to upload your own 360-degree images and video. Use your smartphone to capture a panorama picture or "photosphere" and upload it to Facebook—the social network does the rest to make it easily visible to your friends.
Immersive videos are a bit more complicated and need some of that aforementioned high-end hardware, but if you happen to have some, here's how to get started.
Make a Fundraiser
Want to help someone (perhaps even yourself) financially? Use the power of the crowd. On the web, click the Fundraisers icon (a little gold coin with a heart in the middle) in the left-hand Explore rail (or via the menu on the mobile apps). You can crowd-source funds via donations, either for yourself or on behalf of another person or organization. A lot of people use this feature to do a birthday fundraiser for charity.
It's all pretty easy to set up, BUT there are some things to know. Fundraising campaigns have to be approved by Facebook before they go live. In order to receive funds, users must link a checking account with Facebook. Also, since these campaigns are considered "personal fundraisers," any donations are typically NOT tax-deductible. Most importantly, Facebook implements a fee on donations for "operations and processing."
Stop With the Birthdays
Facebook will tell you every morning who among your friends is celebrating their arrival on Earth. If you hate that and birthdays in general, stop the notifications. Go to Settings > Notifications. There are many things here you can curtail, such as highlights of what you did on that day in the past, activities of your closest friends, the launch of new local Pages, etc. But not far down is the option to turn off the birthdays.
Facebook Is a Virtual Arcade
Facebook has quietly built a fairly robust multiplayer gaming platform (quietly after the days of Farmville anyway). It allows people to instantly play against friends through Messenger, on the Facebook mobile app, or on the web. This section can be accessed by clicking the Games link in the left-hand rail (or under the menu on mobile). This section is home to dozens of free games from multiple genres including classics like Pac-Man, Uno, Snake, and Words With Friends. Users will have the opportunity to challenge friends no matter what platform they are on.
Facebook also has its own Twitch video streaming competitor called, unimaginatively, Gaming Video, at fb.gg.
Visit Town Hall
I honestly didn't know who my local state senator was until I looked at this page. Good thing Facebook was there to tell me! Facebook Town Hall will reveal your representatives based on your address, and provide one-click access to follow each politician's page, from local politicians on up to the President—it also has one-click contact buttons. There is an option to turn on a "constituent badge," which will mark you as a constituent whenever you comment on your rep's page. You can even turn on a voting reminder so you always know about elections in your area.