What It Means to Be Friends on Facebook

In many ways, a Facebook Friend is the same as a real-life friend. These are the people you hang out with, keep in touch with, care about, and want to publicly acknowledge as friends. These aren’t people you met on Facebook. Rather, they're the people you call on the phone; stop and catch up with if you cross paths; or invite over for parties, dinners, and general social gatherings.

In real life, there are lots of shades of friendship — think of the differences between acquaintances, a friend from work, an activity buddy, and best friends. Facebook gives you a few tools for negotiating these levels of friendship. But by default, most friendships are lumped into a blanket category of “friend.”

Here are the basics of what it means to be friends with someone on Facebook, though you’ll notice that each of them comes with a few caveats on how it can be adjusted by either person in the friendship.

  • They can see all the stuff on your Timeline (like your posts and other information) that you have set to be visible to Friends.

    Remember, this is what happens by default. You can actually control which friends can see which posts more specifically by learning about your privacy options, and about Friend Lists.

  • They see new posts you create in their News Feeds on their Home pages.

    Again, the information your friends see in their News Feed depends on the audience you’ve chosen to share each post with. It may also depend on your friends' News Feed settings.

  • You can see their posts and other information on their Timelines.

    This, of course, depends on their own privacy settings, but in general, you’ll be able to see more as a friend than you did before you became friends.

  • You see new posts from them in your News Feed on your Home page.

    This depends on your friend’s sharing settings, but more importantly, you can control whose posts you see in your News Feed through managing your own News Feed settings and preferences.

  • You’ll be listed as friends on one another’s Timeline.

    This is a small detail, but it’s important in understanding the difference between becoming friends with someone and simply subscribing to someone’s posts. Lots of people, especially public figures or people who have a business, allow you to subscribe to their posts without becoming friends. In these cases, you see their posts on your Home page, but they won’t see your posts unless they choose to subscribe to you.

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