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Take Back Your Timeline

Cleaning Up Your Facebook Apps

By Rex Goode

Pieter Huys, "Woman Enranged", Circa 1517

Pieter Huys, “Woman Enraged”
Circa 1517

With a smart phone and a Facebook account, many people are finding a way to entertain themselves any time of day and in almost any circumstance. If you’re an avid Facebook user, you’ve probably used your smart phone to see what your friends are finding interesting, whether in the world of entertainment, politics, religion, or world events, you can pass the time while you’re waiting in a reception area, parked waiting for someone you are picking up, relaxing at home, or any number of other places.

You can watch videos, look at pictures, read news stories, chat with friends, respond to discussions, and keep yourself entertained almost anywhere. Beware that it doesn’t take you over and start to affect your in-person relationships. Also beware that it doesn’t embarrass you and expose some of the private stuff you might use it for. Your timeline is where the main activity on your Facebook happens. On your timeline you can see all of the things you’ve posted to it and all of the things people on your “friends” list have posted to it. There are some ways to control this, but that’s not what this post is about.

I’m going to show you how to protect yourself from embarrassment from the things you’ve clicked on, whether intentional or accidentally, showing up on your timeline whether you want it to or not. I’m also going to help you avoid some of the more annoying things that can happen to you on Facebook, clickbaits and listicles, both of which often describe a single link on a timeline.

A clickbait is a link with a sensational headline designed to get your oh-so-curious mind to want to click on it. The headline often exaggerates what you’ll end up learning when you click on it. People generally define it as only those sites that pull you away from your Facebook experience and draw you onto another site for endless surfing looking for something to satisfy your curiosity.

Some sites just show you something interesting and informative and the you go back to your timeline and continue on. Whether clickbait or not, most links you follow will have two things the author hopes you’ll do.

  1. Click on an ad and buy something.
  2. Share the link yourself on Facebook or other social media. The site designer provides links for you to do that.

I don’t think of this as a bad thing. I do it, though not very successfully, because my main purpose is to pontificate about my own pet peeves and points of view. Believe me, I’m not getting rich on this.

A listicle is one of those things you see on your timeline that are like “top 10” lists, or how-to lists, i.e., “Top 10 Silent Movies” or “45 Ways to Poach an Egg”. I don’t mind the listicles that show you the whole list on one page. What I can’t abide and avoid as soon as I recognize one are the lists that give you one item per page downloaded. A list of only a very few items can take up a lot of your time to read and if you’re on a limited data plan, chew up all of your data allotment. Each page will be so full of ads and sharing links that it will take you forever to get through to the end of the list and I doubt you’ll come out at the end feeling satisfied that it was time well spent.

There’s a third kind that most of us have encountered and I don’t know if it has a name. I call them “quizicles”. The headline usually says something like, “Which _______ Are You?” I remember one called, “Which R&B Diva Are You?” I don’t remember who I got, but I didn’t like it. I wanted to be Gladys Knight.

As much time as these things waste, the time lost is not the worst of the problems you can encounter. Depending on what you click on once you’re on the other site, you could end up getting some bad stuff installed on your computer.

Viruses, spam, adware, etc.

Short of getting some of these things on your computer, you may also be giving up control of your Facebook® timeline to a third party like the web site you just visited.

Ounce of Prevention

When you see a video that catches your interest, and then you click to go look at it, if it asks you for permission to anything at all before you see the video, turn it down. Don’t do it. From then on out, everything you look at on that site will be posted to your timeline for all the world to see.

The reason this happens is that you give that website permission to install an application (app) on your Facebook® account that will then have the permission to share what you share. One such recent app is the “Big Vines” app. People have reported going to it to look at a video and then the next thing they know, a friend is commenting on the video. If it wasn’t the kind of video you would normally watch or you don’t want anyone knowing you would watch, too late. It’s now a post on your timeline.

You can often go to the app’s settings and turn off the sharing permission, but I recommend you delete the app entirely. Any app that would do something like that is not an app I want. For those who may want to watch videos on such a service, here’s a good video to show you how for one app: Why (and How) to Turn Off Socialcam on Facebook.

Pound of Cure

I’m going to walk you through how to turn off and delete apps in your Facebook account that you don’t want. As you use Facebook, you are often installing apps and giving them permissions without thinking much about it. Basically, you encounter content that you want to enjoy and you somewhat thoughtlessly say ‘yes’ to installing an app and giving it permission to do stuff to you.

This isn’t always a bad thing. I have a lot of apps in my Facebook account that I’m very happy with. I even wrote one myself. Apps are your friends, and like some friends, they can turn on you.

I’ve divided it into to two parts. You may only want to do the first part, but I recommend doing both.

Part One – Disabling Apps

  1. Near the top of your Facebook page on the right side you’ll see an icon that looks like a pad lock with three little lines next to it. This is your quick link to privacy settings. Next to it, there is a downward-pointing triangle, a down-arrow. This brings up a menu. Click on the word, “Settings”.
  2. The page will change. There is a list of different kinds of settings on the left side of the window. Click on “Notifications”.
  3. The page will change again. Near the top are the words, “Notification Settings”. There are headings below that. In the section labeled, “What You Get Notified About”, is a setting called, “App requests and activities”. Next to it, you’ll see a message like, “On for 59 of your 60 apps”. Choose this one.
  4. Click on this message or on the “Edit” link next to it.
  5. Then click on “Show More” to see the entire list of apps. You’ll probably be surprised at how many there are. Those with a check mark are enabled. Those without are disabled.
  6. Go through and uncheck any app you don’t want. Remember that many of those apps are good things and you’ve been using them all along without a problem. You may not know you’ve been using them, but you have. So, don’t just go hog wild and disable all of your apps.
    If you aren’t sure, do a web search. For example, if you see an app called, “Bitstrips”, go to your favorite search engine and search for “bitstrips facebook app”. Find out what it is about and see if you want to keep it. I like Bitstrips, so I keep it.
    My rule of thumb about some apps is that if it is so sleazy it doesn’t show up on a web search, I get rid of it.
  7. As you uncheck apps, make a list of the ones you are unchecking. I did this by using cut-and-paste to create a list of all apps in a text editor and then deleting all of the apps I plan to keep.
  8. When you’re done, click “Close” at the bottom of the list.

Part Two – Deleting Apps

  1. Start over at step 1 above, but this time, instead of the “Notifications” settings, you want the Apps settings.
  2. This will bring up a list of the apps that are installed on your Facebook account.
  3. Click on “Show All” to see the whole list.
  4. Referring to the list you made in step 7 above, hover over an app you want to delete. Next to it will appear a pencil icon and an X icon. The pencil lets you edit the app’s settings. The X lets you delete it. I’m not going to help you with settings here.
  5. If you choose to delete, it will sometimes ask if you also want to delete any of the posts the app created. If it created content you don’t want others to see, delete it. Some of the apps on my account were left over from quizicles I had done years ago. Nothing embarrassing there, but I don’t really care if they are there for anyone to run across.

Parting Advice

I love my Facebook friends. I have relatives I’ve never met, old friends from school, people that no longer live near me, interesting people I’ve met online that I want to know better, and grandchildren that I don’t get to see enough. Facebook provides me with a way to keep in touch that my parents never had.

Whatever you do, don’t let the interesting side of Facebook overshadow the personal part. I think that the good thing about Facebook is connecting you with people. The bad part is wasting your time on things that don’t matter that much. Choose a personal interaction over mindless surfing. Facebook is just a tool. It can enrich your relationships, waste tons of your time, and maybe even do you some harm. The responsibility is yours to make of it what you will. Make something good out of it.

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