Here are six clean-up tips:
Secure your account
You’ve doubtless heard you should have a strong password. It’s especially important for email and social-networking accounts because so much of your digital life revolves around them. Plus, many other services let you log on using your Facebook account, so if that gets compromised, so will your other accounts.
Because passwords are tough to manage, it’s best not to rely solely on them. Turn on what Facebook calls Login Approvals. It’s in the account settings under “Security.” After you do so, you’re asked for confirmation — a special number sent to your phone — when signing on from a new device. Unless you switch devices often, this is something you set up once and forget about.
Review your privacy settings
Facebook offers a series of quick privacy “shortcuts.” On desktops and laptops, look for the small padlock on the upper right corner. On Apple and Android devices, access shortcuts through the menu — the three horizontal bars.
The key shortcut is “Who can see my stuff?” See whether you’ve been inadvertently broadcasting your musings to all of Facebook. You’ll probably want to at least limit sharing to “Friends” rather than “Public,” though you can customise that further to exclude certain individuals or groups — such as coworkers, or grandparents. When sharing, less is more.
While you’re at it, check “Timeline and Tagging” in your account settings. You can insist on approving posts that people tag you in. Note that this is limited to what appears on your personal timeline; if Mary tags you in a post, Mary’s friends will still see it regardless of your settings.
If you’re on a desktop or laptop, Facebook has a Privacy Checkup tool to review your settings. Look for that padlock. This tool is coming soon to mobile.
Purge friends you’re no longer in touch with. If you think “unfriending” is too mean, add them to an “Acquaintances” or “Restricted” list. “Acquaintances” means they won’t show up in your news feed often, though they’ll still have full access to any posts you distribute to your friends. “Restricted” means they’ll only see posts you mark as public. Either is effectively a way to unfriend someone without dropping any clues you’ve done so.
You can also create custom lists, such as “college friends” or “family.” This is great for oversharing with those who’ll appreciate it, while not annoying everyone else and putting yourself in danger of becoming an “acquaintance” yourself. You can create lists on a traditional PC by hitting “More” next to “Friends” to the left of your feed. Individuals can be in multiple groups. Capabilities are limited on mobile, although changes you make on the PC will appear on your phone or tablet.
Watch those apps
Perhaps someone invited you to play a game a few years ago. You tried it and moved on, yet the app is still getting access to your data. Or perhaps you’ve used Facebook to log onto a service you no longer use.
The Privacy Checkup tool on PCs will review apps for you automatically. On mobile devices, look for “Apps” in the account settings (not “Apps” in the main menu).
A related option is the Security Checkup tool. It’s an easy way to log out of Facebook on devices you rarely use. You can also enable alerts when someone tries to sign on from a new device or browser. To run this, go to http://facebook.com/securitycheckup on a PC. On the Android app, search for “security checkup” in the Help Centre. On iOS, you’ll have to find the options individually in the account settings under “Security.”
Control your data
You can exert some influence over whose posts you see more or less often by going to “News Feeds Preferences.” The setting is on the top right on browsers and Android apps and on the lower right on iPhones. Here, you can select friends who’ll always show up on top, or hide someone’s posts completely.