How to fight back against oversharing on Facebook

Over at CNET, Molly Wood is getting a lot of attention for a post titled "How Facebook is ruining sharing."

She complains, justifiably, about how "the slow spread of Facebook’s Open Graph scheme is totally ruining sharing."

I know you’ve seen this at the top of your news feed: a list of stories your friends have been reading. Or, simply, a single post with a great headline leading to a story that you’d really like to read. So you click it, because your friend shared it, and you really want to read it.

But you can’t read it, because you don’t have that app installed. And there’s no easy way to work around that roadblock except to install the app, in which case the default settings make sure that everything you click gets "shared" to your Facebook feed. And the cycle continues.

Here’s the problem. That’s not sharing.

I read lots of stuff online. Much of it is crap. (Sturgeon’s Law and all that.) I don’t want to leave a trail of breadcrumbs showing every link I clicked on. If I read a post that has a great headline and turns out to be utter garbage, you’re going to see that in my feed. You might be tempted to click it because it has an interesting headline and you think I am somehow recommending it. When that happens, the purveyor of that particular piece of crap has been unjustly rewarded.

Now, I do like some of these news-related apps. In Facebook, I have three of them installed: The Guardian, WSJ Social, and the Washington Post Social Reader. But if you go to my Facebook feed, you will not see any of my activity from these three apps. That’s because I specifically disabled the automatic sharing feature.

Here’s how you can do the same.

If you click on a link and you haven’t already installed the app that feeds it, you’ll see a dialog box like this one:


If you look carefully, you’ll see that this app is set to make your activity visible to Friends. Click the arrow to its right and you’ll get some additional choices:


And now it gets interesting. Click Custom and you get the option to decide exactly who gets to see what you share. You can go totally granular here if you want, using Lists or even the names of individual friends to make your activity visible to some people and hiding it from others. Or you can choose the option I have chosen here: Only Me.


Click Save Changes and then add the app to Facebook. Now, I have a record of everything I read using this app, which I find convenient if I want to return to an interesting article. But I’m not sharing that information with my friends. If I want to share a link with them, I can do it in a conscious, purposeful way, and I get the option to add my own comments.

In my next post, what to do with apps you’ve already added…

5 thoughts on “How to fight back against oversharing on Facebook

  1. Yes, I have noticed recently a friend of mine has apparently installed some kind of app that notifies me of every article she’s read on Yahoo. It’s not many but enough to be bothersome. Had to block it.

  2. Ed,

    On a somewhat related topic, my hometown newspaper will soon require Facebook registration in order to post comments about a story. Without registering for Facebook, you will be unable to post comments.

    While I understand their desire to bring ‘civilized’ discussion to the internet, I have trouble with them mandating a specific manner of registration. Why Facebook, what if they demanded a hotmail or gmail account or a note from my mother?

    As someone who has battled comment spam and the occasional troll throughout your career how do you feel? Will they get any sincere and honest comments from folks? With employers ‘patrolling’ Facebook, why would you even bother posting a comment?

    I view this as a foolish change that will unfortunately become common in the near future. That said, thank you for restoring comments to you site.


  3. Gee Ed!

    Aren’t you getting a little tired of using something that you have to spend so much time defending your privacy against?

    Or do you like the idea that it will feel great when you finally stop hitting yourself in the head with the Facebook Hammer?

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