How to Distance yourself from a Facebook friend without Unfriending

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(Originally published 5/23/13, updated 12/27/13 and again 1/14/15).

A relative of mine asked me, “What can I do if I don’t want to see someone’s updates on Facebook, but I’d rather not unfriend or block them?”

Here’s how to make it seem like you have unfriended a person.  It’s a two-step process.  First, you will prevent their updates from showing up on your news feed (the page you see when you first log into Facebook). Then, you can prevent them from seeing your updates.

[January, 2015] I’ve added instructions and screenshots of how this works on mobile; previously I just outlined how this would work when viewing Facebook in a web browser on your computer.  I’ve also outlined another method.  There are actually two ways to accomplish this:

  1. The easiest way is to add someone to your Acquaintances list.  (Read instruction here for using the Acquaintances list for distancing yourself from a FB friend)
  2. The other method is to un-follow a person and then add them to your Restricted list.  Read on if you’d like to try this method.

Of course you could always go ahead and un-friend someone – they will not be notified.  But it could create an awkward situation, depending on the person and your relationship.  So it’s nice to have this option.

Prevent a friend’s updates from showing up on your Facebook Feed:

Desktop:

1. Go to your friend’s timeline page by clicking on their name.  The “Following” button will be checked, as shown, meaning that you currently follow the person (i.e. you see their updates on your News Feed).

Facebook Following button

2. Click the “Following” button to unfollow them.  The button will change to the word “Follow”.

Facebook Follow Button

Mobile:

1.  In the Facebook app, first go to the friend’s timeline.  Click the “Friends” button and you’ll see the following choices appear: Unfriend, Unfollow, or Edit Friends Lists.  Click “Unfollow”.

Unfollow a friend on Facebook mobile app

You should no longer see this friend’s updates on your News Feed.  You can still see their updates if you visit their profile/timeline page.  This is a change from the previous instructions where you could pick and choose the types of updates you wanted to see.  Sadly it is now all or nothing.

Now that you have limited what you’ll see about this person, go ahead and limit what they’ll see about you.

Add your friend to your “Restricted” list to prevent them from seeing what you share

Facebook provides a few built-in “Lists” for categorizing your friends.  You can use these lists to control who you share with.  One of the lists is called “Restricted”.  When you add someone to your “Restricted” list they will only be able to see your “Public content or posts of yours that you tag them in”.  It works like this:

  • Share an update with “Friends” Friend icon, people in your “Restricted” list won’t see it.
  • Share an update with “Everyone” Globe icon, people in your “Restricted list will see it.
  • Tag your friend in an update, they will see it even if they are in your “Restricted” list.

Desktop:

1. Hover over the Friends button again and this time choose “Add to another list”.

2. Select “Restricted”.

3. If this person was in another list, select that list to un-check and remove them from the list.

Add a friend to the Restricted list in Facebook

 

Mobile:

1. Click on the “Friends” button again.  This time choose “Edit Friend Lists”.

Edit Friend Lists on Facebook mobile app  Add friend to Restricted list on Facebook mobile

2.  You’ll see some possible lists – I have several custom lists, your screen might look a bit different.  Scroll down and select “Restricted”.

3. If this person was in another list, select that list to un-check and remove them from the list.

Now test your new settings.  Go to your profile, click the little gear button and choose “View as”.  Then enter that person’s name to get a sense of what your now-Restricted friend will see about you.  (Learn more about Viewing your Facebook Timeline as someone else)

Is this fool-proof?

No.  There are a few other settings that could expose some of your information to the friend you are trying to ditch.

For example, if you have a mutual friend in common, and that mutual friend tags you both, then your friend might see that you’ve been tagged.

Or, if you and your “frenemy” both follow a public page on Facebook like…uh…good example here….okay let’s say you both follow that Star Trek guy George Takei, and you click “Like” on George’s funny picture, then your friend could potentially see that you’ve liked it.  That’s because she is also a fan of George and George’s post are available to “Everyone”.

So while there is no guarantee of total erasure of this person from your Facebook life, this is about as close as you can come to unfriending or blocking a person.

[Please note  – I have closed comments on this article; unfortunately this page is receiving a large number of spam comments.  And I am not able to personally troubleshoot each and every situation! Please take a look at the existing comments and replies to date, as your question might be answered here.  You can also take a look at other Facebook tips, or search the Facebook help page.]

 

About Jean

Hi! I'm a webmaster, technology educator and creator of Be Web Smart. I hope you found this article useful. If you are new here, you might like to sign up for e-mail updates, view Links and Resources on similar topics, and subscribe to the RSS feed.