If you're spending all your time wading through risqué photos, crazy rants, and awkward posts, it's probably time to reassess your posse of Facebook pals. “Ask yourself what your true motivations are for being virtual friends,” says Andrea Bonior, Ph.D., a licensed clinical psychologist and author of The Friendship Fix. Keep this handy cheat sheet as a guide when you next log on:
Who: Your Kid's Teacher
Why Friend?: You hit it off at the school fair, so friending her could be the next logical step.
The Lowdown: Sharing on Facebook could become uncomfortable, especially if an issue arises at school. “The teacher may feel it's difficult to be objective about your child or that you're asking for special treatment,” explains Bonior.
Who: The Weekend Babysitter
Why Friend?: She's sweet with your kids and lives down the block, so what's the harm?
The Lowdown: It's fine to poke around online before you hire—many potential employers do this—but decline her friend request. “You're bound to see a post or photo that makes you cringe, and it could ruin your relationship,” says Bonior.
Who: The Moms in Your Kid's Class
Why Friend?: It seems like a good idea to meet new people and keep tabs on your kids.
The Lowdown: This one's a yes, but be selective. Pick (and accept) only the moms you're already friendly with. You're not going to bond with the whole parent body online and shouldn't risk annoying potential future playdates with your posts.
Who: Your Family Pediatrician
Why Friend?: Between sick visits, vaccines, and earaches, you're in her office every month!
The Lowdown: Aren't those exams enough sharing? Facebook isn't the avenue for medical communication, and unless you go out for drinks regularly with your kid's doctor, she simply shouldn't be a part of your social life—period.
Who: An Old Boyfriend
Why Friend?: He was a hoot in high school! He's still kind of cute! It's only Facebook, right?
The Lowdown: If either of you is married, then no. The posts or pictures could hurt your partner's feelings. “Many people have a hidden agenda for finding and friending an ex, so be honest about why you're reaching out,” says Bonior.
Plus: Facebook's privacy controls have been revamped. Here's the takeaway:
- A new icon links directly to privacy settings, so it's faster to use than the current drop-down arrow near the home tab.
- A Request Removal tool allows you to ask whoever uploaded unauthorized photos of you to delete them.
- Notices can alert you if content you want to hide from your timeline might still appear in news feeds.
- Facebook apps now have to make two requests to access your info and post to your account.