Once you are online, you can view which of your friends are online and they will be able to see you online as well. Generally, Facebook only provides the options to go offline or online. Apart from this, the only other status available is ‘Idle’ which appears next to your name after a prolonged period of inactivity.
But how can you be invisible on Facebook to certain users? This is how.
You can also create lists to group your friends in Facebook. The lists appear in the chat interface as well. In addition, you can also create new lists to group your friends from the chat window. This is the functionality that we would be using to appear offline. For completeness, here is how you create a list from the chat interface.
- Click on the Friend Lists label in the chat window. A dialog will pop up asking you for list name.
- Key in a name for the list and hit Enter. This will create a list in your chat window.
- When the list is empty, Facebook displays a message letting you know that you can drag and drop friends’ names to make them a part of the list. Go ahead, choose the ones that you want to put in a list and they will be added.
- Lists, as you might expect, are persistent; meaning that they will be there just as you left them the last time you logged out of Facebook. You can create as many lists as you want to group your friends; and as I will show you, to appear offline to them.
For this purpose, we need at least one list in your chat window. Follow the steps detailed above to create a list, you can name your list anything that you want. I have named one of my lists as "invisible". As soon as the list is created, you will notice a "toggle button" next to the list name in your chat window.
This button lets you appear online or offline to a list of friends depending upon its state. Coupled with the fact that you can easily drag and drop contacts in and out of a list, this is a good trick to appear online to a select list of friends and appear offline to others. Just drag the contacts you want to appear offline to into the "invisible" list and then click on the toggle button/switch next to "invisible" so that it switches to gray. You will now appear offline to contacts in the "invisible" list, while everyone else can see you online.
Caveats You Should Be Aware Of
- The entire method works well, as I mention above. However, those with a keen eye would have noticed that once you go offline to a list of contacts, you seize to see them online in your list as well. This means you cannot tell if they are still logged in or if they have logged out. This is not much of a hindrance if you want to stay away from certain contacts, but it is not the true “invisible” behavior either. Just so you know.
- The would also not work if you decide to use third party applications for Facebook chat.
- Due to the way Facebook chat lists work, you cannot add contacts to the list once you have toggled it to offline. If you want to move another contact into the list or move any out of the "invisible" list you have to toggle it to online, then edit it and go offline again. Hardly elegant, for my liking at least
Other than these minor caveats, you can edit the lists to your liking and delete them altogether if you don’t feel the need to use them anymore. The lists you create in chat are also visible in the Account > Edit Friends section, just like any other lists you create.
Go ahead, give this a try and let us know it works for you. Do you use the invisible functionality on other IM networks? Would you like Facebook to provide this functionality directly?