Organizing your Facebook friends into lists is a great way to share different kinds of content with different kinds of people: for example, you might want to share certain updates with your colleagues, and other kinds of updates (like those adorable kid photos) with a small circle of friends.

Facebook automatically creates a few of these lists for you, like the list of people who went to the same school you went to. One of the most useful lists is the “restricted” list, because it lets you share things with your friends, while hiding them from people on your restricted list.

My restricted list contains anyone I agree to friend but don’t really know (as a writer, I like to be accessible to people who read my blog posts) as well as my workplace colleagues, my mom and my mom’s friends. (Because even after I put my mom on my restricted list, her friends reported on my Facebook updates.)

In this guide, I show you how to add people to your restricted list, and how to tweak both your Facebook settings and your individual post settings so you control who sees what.

  1. Confirm requestWhen you see someone you know through your professional work, and want to friend, click the “confirm” button.

  2. Friend requestsStart by clicking the friends icon in the upper right of your Facebook window to see your friend requests. Here, I’ve received a friend request from someone I don’t actually know, so he’s going on my restricted list.

  3. Friends dropdownThis will load a “friends” button with a drop-down menu. Click to see the drop-down menu.

  4. Add to another listScroll down and click on “Add to another list”

  5. Click restrictedThen scroll down until you can click on “Restricted”.

  6. Confirm restrictedYou should now see a check mark next to “Restricted”. ¬†Anyone on your restricted list will see only your Public posts — even though they are technically your “friend”, they don’t see content you share only with friends.

  7. Change default post settingsNext, you need to change the default settings for who sees the content you share. Start by clicking the settings icon.

  8. Select “account settings”From the settings menu, choose “account settings”.

  9. Navigate to privacy settingsSelect “privacy” from the left-hand sidebar. Note that Facebook frequently moves its settings around, so the screenshots I’m sharing today may not reflect how Facebook will work a month or year from now.

  10. Edit privacy settingsUnder “Who can see my stuff?”, if it’s not set to “friends”, select “edit” next to “who can see your future posts?”

  11. Who can see my stuff?Set “Who can see your future posts” to “friends” so that you don’t accidentally share things with the whole world. This way, the default for anything you post will be to share it only with friends who aren’t on your restricted list.

  12. Set post visibilityNote that you can change the privacy setting on any individual Facebook post or photo, either at the time of posting, or after the fact. You can even limit visibility to specific people.

  13. Viewing your postIf you want to post something that you don’t want to share with your professional contacts, set the post visibility to “friends”. When you hover over the button, you’ll see that it specifically says “..Except: Restricted”. That means people on your restricted list won’t see it.

  14. Confirm post visibilityIf you want to share something with the whole world — including people on your restricted list — set your post visibility to “public”. Double-check your post visibility before clicking “post”.

  15. View your wallLook at your Facebook wall to see everything you’ve shared, whether it’s public or just for friends.

  16. Test your settings with “view as”If you want to double-check your settings, or make sure that people on your restricted list are only seeing the updates you want them to see, use the “view as” option on your profile page, under the gear icon.

  17. View your post as someone on your restricted listEnter the name of someone on your restricted list to see what your profile page looks like to them. Sure enough, Praveen can only see the post I shared publicly — not the one I shared with friends.

  18. Filter your news feed with a friend listYou can create as many different friend lists as you want — it just takes a little work to organize your friends into the right lists. You can use those same lists to pay closer attention to some people, and less attention to others. When I look at Facebook, I often filter my news feed so I’m only looking at my “A1 Pals” list: the small circle of friends and family whose updates can easily get lost in the sea of news from the hundred of people I’ve friended.

Experiment with creating a couple of lists for specific purposes, like sharing family news. And please be sure to share your own tips for getting the most from Facebook lists!