Well, Facebook’s done it again. They’ve rolled out some major design changes and, as usual, everyone’s in an uproar.

I personally don’t mind the new “Top Stories” differentiation on the newsfeed. What I do mind is feeling like they’ve installed spyware on my friends’, family members’ and coworkers’ browsers with their new real-time activity ticker.

*What the ticker does
*How it could cause problems
*How to hide other people’s activity on your ticker
*How to hide your activity on other people’s tickers


What the ticker does

Essentially, this ticker shows you everything your Facebook friends are doing as they’re doing it. Everything.

Some of it is business as usual — things you’d expect to see: Sheryl shared a story, Sean and Eduardo are now friends, Arianna wrote on Michael’s wall. But here’s what’s now called out that wasn’t called out to the same degree before:

*If you go on a ‘liking’ spree, it’s all right there in the ticker, rather than just showing up as a thumbs-up attached to that person’s content and on your own wall. (See example at right.) One exception: If the content you’ve liked isn’t shared by with “friends of friends” or “public,” your non-mutual friends won’t see it.

*There’s now also a deluge of “Mark commented on so-and-so’s post” stories. Previously, comments you left on posts didn’t surface at the top of the newsfeed — they were grouped with the original post. But now, each new comment will show up at the top of the ticker — so if you’re having a back-and-forth with someone, your friends will get a real-time play-by-play.

Why it could be problematic for your love life (or your life in general)

We’ve written at length about how technology and social media have complicated dating: Adding someone as a friend after only a date or two is inadvisable (and makes pulling the fade-out really awkward). A blinking gchat window can make a new couple feel pressure to keep up the banter at work. And a “sorry it took me so long to answer your text, I was caught up with ____” excuse rings false when a steady stream of tweets have been posted from the tardy texter’s phone all day.

And now, the aggregation of nearly everything you’re doing on Facebook — in real time — basically makes it much more obvious when you’re Paying Attention to Facebook. So if your boyfriend is waiting on an answer to his email about whether or not you were flirting with Joe at a party (or your boss is waiting on a report, for that matter), be aware that they could be watching you ‘like’ a bunch of posts — some of Joe’s posts, perhaps? Clearly, you’re prioritizing Joe (and Jimmy and Mike) over them.

Likewise, when you’re on the opposite end, it can be hard to not wonder why your significant other is so actively involved in so many ladies’ or gents’ Facebook lives, when this information is being handed to you on a platter that’s being flaunted in your face(book). You didn’t want to stalk, but really, you had no choice.

How to hide certain posts from your ticker (or hide the ticker completely)

You can adjust how many ticker updates you see from someone by going to their profile (or hovering over their name in your newsfeed) and choosing to see “Only Important” updates, and/or unchecking certain types of stories (“Comments and Likes” probably being the one that’ll reduce the most noise).

Facebook doesn’t allow you to hide the ticker altogether, but you can make it smaller by dragging the gray bar between ticker and chat up, so that you see more of the chat and only a sliver of the ticker.

But you can remove it altogether if you use Chrome or Firefox. Via Matt at CNet How To:

In Chrome, simply install the Hide Facebook SideBar Ticker extension and the ticker will vanish.

In Firefox, you will need to install a user script. To do so, first install the Greasemonkey add-on and then install this user script. When prompted, restart Firefox and the ticker will be gone. Do note that this user script removes the entire right column of Facebook, including the ticker, event invitations, ads, sponsored stories, friends’ photos, and so on.

(Lifehacker also has a few suggestions for Firefox and Chrome users.)

How to hide your activity from other people’s tickers

Your friends can choose to unsubscribe from all or part your activity (see above). But you can’t do it for them — though of course you can ask them to do it, which some people are doing by posting something like this as their status update:

Hover over my name here, wait for the box to load & then hover over the “Subscribe” link. Then uncheck the “Comments & Likes” choice. I would rather my comments on friends’ posts not be made public. Repost if you don’t want your EVERY MOVE posted on the right for everyone to see! I’ll do the same for you if you want. Just click “Like.” Thanks!

So now do we have to add “I’ll unsubscribe from your comments and likes if you unsubscribe from mine” to the list of 7 Conversations You Have to Have Before You Commit? (I’m kidding. Sort of.)

Here’s one way to bring it up without being super awkward (but probably still a little awkward): Next time you’re near your significant other’s computer, find an excuse to show them something on your Facebook profile (logged in on their account). Then say, “OH, I read this crazy blog post the other day about how this girl is freaking out about the new Facebook ticker. Apparently she thinks you should ask the person you’re dating to unsubscribe from seeing every time you comment or post on someone else’s post. What a weirdo. Yeah, see, you just click this button here… [click].”


What do you think? Does the new ticker give you too much information about other people? Do you care that it gives away so much information about your activity? Or do you think it’s an improvement? Tell us in the comments.


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