How To Edit Your New Facebook Chat Sidebar and Settings

Facebook Chat Sidebar

Facebook Chat Sidebar

You may have noticed the new Facebook Chat Sidebar when you logged in to Facebook recently. The list of friends displayed in this sidebar is supposed to be the friends you interact with most. (A few friends and I are finding that the relevancy of the friends in this display is not that accurate!)

I rarely use the Facebook chat feature, so I thought perhaps the select list of friends was ones I email most often, but it’s not. I wondered if the list is based on a social relevancy algorithm and shows those friends whose content I like or comment upon most often. But, nope!

From Facebook’s chat help:

Which friends appear in the sidebar? Can I add specific friends?

The list of friends in your sidebar is based on who you’ve interacted with most frequently or recently on Facebook. Since it updates dynamically, you can’t manually add friends to the list. The list shows both friends who are available to chat and friends who aren’t.

I’m not a big chatter on Facebook myself. I prefer Skype chat and limit myself there to my own team and a small group of core contacts. I appreciate there are great benefits to being able to live chat anytime, but for me I like to limit my instant availability and stay focused. (And, as for the new Facebook video chat? Or Google+ Hangouts? Maybe once in a blue moon when I happen to be camera ready anyway!)

There are now several changes to the way you use Facebook chat and edit your settings:

1. Chat with friends

Facebook states, “The sidebar is sensitive to the amount of free space you have on your screen, so it only appears if there’s enough room for it. If you don’t see the sidebar, just click Chat in the bottom right corner of your screen, which shows the same list of friends you’ll find in your sidebar.”

To chat with any friend in the new sidebar, click on their name and the chat window opens up.

You’ll know when a friend is available to chat depending on the icon next to their name:

  • Friends with a green dot next to their names are available to chat.
  • Friends with a gray moon next to their names are available but inactive.
  • Friends with no icon next to their names are unavailable.

Even if friends aren’t available to chat, you can still send them a message and they can read it later. Chat messages are also viewable via the Messages (email) box.

To chat with a friend not listed in the new sidebar, start typing their name in the search box at the bottom of the list.

2. Turn off your chat availability entirely:

To “go offline” (not available to chat to anyone):

  1. Click the cog icon in the lower right corner.
  2. Uncheck “Available to Chat.”
Turn Off Facebook Chat

Turn Off Facebook Chat

To go back online at any time and show your friends your available to chat, click the “Chat (Offline)” bar in the lower right:

Facebook Chat Offline

…then click the hyperlinked “available:”

Facebook Chat Available

3. Limit your availability to certain friends:

You can easily display the fact you’re online and available to chat with only certain friends. Other friends will simply see you as offline. First, you’ll need to have Friend Lists set up (see #4 below). Then:

  1. Click the cog icon in the lower right corner.
  2. Click “Limit Availability.” [UPDATE: 7/18/11 8:30 AM PST - You may find that the "Limit Availability" option does not show up for you. It seems to be very buggy and intermittent. I had to refresh Facebook several times, clear cache, and try different browsers. Sometimes the ability to limit availability shows and sometimes not. Hopefully Facebook is working on correcting this.]
  3. Click the menu in the upper left of the popup window; choose from “Make me unavailable to:” OR “Only make me available to:”.
  4. Select/deselect any Friend Lists as you wish.
  5. Click the Close button.

Facebook Chat Limit Availability

4. Create Friend Lists

Don’t have Friend Lists set up yet? Just go here and click the “Create A List” button. There are many ways to get back to your list of Friend Lists; one of the easiest ways is to remember the URL is simply facebook.com/friends.

Or, try the nifty Circle Hack app, created to emulate the Google+ circles! See screenshot below (click to enlarge). Circle Hack is a really easy way to segment your Facebook friends – you don’t have to put everyone in a list, maybe just specific friends then leave others as they are. (The Circle Hack app is not affiliated with Facebook.)

Circle Hack app for Facebook Friend Lists

Circle Hack app for Facebook Friend Lists

Once you make your friend “circles” via the Circle Hack app, go back to facebook.com/friends to edit as needed. (Sidenote: many people get concerned over the word “hack.” Yes, if your account gets hacked by a hacker that’s a bad thing! But hack can also mean a shortcut, a workaround).

5. Hide the sidebar:

You may want to hide the Chat Sidebar sometimes – that’s easy: click the cog icon > click “Hide Sidebar.”

6. Delete Chat history:

At some point in the past few months, since Facebook has been rolling out the new Messages (email) product, you may have been taken aback to find a conversation history from a long time ago suddenly show up when emailing a friend.

The new Messages product is fully integrated with your email, chat and texting (if you use it). So, let’s say you have a chat with a friend and then wish to delete that conversation. You can clear the Chat Window by clicking the little cog icon in the Chat Window, then click “Clear Window” per the following screenshot:

Clear Facebook Chat Window

Clear Facebook Chat Window

BUT, all that does is clear the Chat Window. The conversation is still in your Messages area. So, what to do is click “See Full Conversation” which opens the chat history in your Messages area. (You can also go to the Messages area any time and just search for your friend’s name).  Then click the “Actions” button in the upper right and select “Delete Messages.”

Delete Facebook Messages

Delete Facebook Chat and/or Messages

You can now delete all. Or, select specific parts of the conversation to delete by clicking the check box next to each entry and clicking the “Delete Selected” button.

By the way, be careful of any chat messaging scams – they are out there. Unfriend/block anyone if needed Refer to the Chat Privacy section on Facebook’s Help Center. For more information on the new chat sidebar, see this section of Facebook’s Help Center. For more extensive help on chat, including video chat, refer to this section.

I trust this guide is helpful to you. Any questions, let me know in the comments below! Do you use the Chat feature much yourself? What do you think of Facebook’s fully integrated email/chat/texting communication system?

UPDATE: The popout feature still works where you can easily see all your friends, plus any friend lists you have and turn the chat slider on or off (green or gray) for each friend list. You may find the popout much easier to use as opposed to the “relevance” list Facebook displays for you!

UPDATE: 7/17/11 3:00PM PST: Since I published this post yesterday, Facebook seems to have removed the Chat Sidebar and reverted back to the old chat. For now, anyway!! :) Let me know in the comments below if you still have the new Sidebar.


Mari Smith

Forbes Top Social Media Power Influencer | Facebook Marketing Expert | Globe-trotting Speaker, Author | 'Mari like Ferrari' | Bubbly Scottish-Canadian!

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Posted in Facebook Tips
  • http://www.facebook.com/Woopisingle Jason White

    Same its pissing me off!!!

  • Erin KOss

    Thank you! The chat sidebar was a menace!

  • sara warburton

    why has my facebook sidebar background colour changed to black. is the fault with me or has everyone changed to that colour…my mates is still white and readable. how can i change it back to white please as i cant see on the dark background

  • Perfect Touch

    facebook chat set up is so fooked up,it comes on and off when it wants

  • Madison

    Hi Edwin, it indicates how long ago that person was online. So say beside your friend is says 30mins.. it means they were last active/online 30 minutes ago :)

  • Emily

    Chill out!

  • Rita Scannell

    How can I hide the chat sidebar on the iPad Facebook App?

  • Guest

    Is there any way to limit or remove who can see the last time you were active on facebook? Mine shows up even when my fb sends me a text, informing me I have a notification, so then it says that I was online when I hadn’t been.

  • Debra Preisinger

    My Chat Bar showing those on-line, etc. has moved to the left more; it’s no longer way on the right side, and it interferes with other things on the screen…Is there a way I can move it back all the way to the “right” side? Thank you.

  • Travis

    How do I remove people from my Facebook chat sidebar? I know they are supposed to be who I interact with the most but I have one person who I am not friends with that I do not interact with at all in my chat sidebar and I want them removed.

  • help

    It has stopped displaying how long it’s been since I signed off of chat…how do I correct this?

  • question

    Why is someone appearing on my chat list as available and we are not friends

  • urgent!

    how can i know if one of my friend is just not available on me?

  • BluePotion

    I want to know why, suddenly, when I message someone it pulls up that tiny little box. It already says chat is off yet I have to do all my messaging from that microscopic box anyway. I happen to know how to program a computer but FB keeps harassing me with their changes. Every other month it’s something different.

  • Raphael

    Same problem, started yesterday. Looking for a fix

  • Charles Purdy

    Yeah, it’s so easy, they say to hide your sidebar. Just click on that little cog icon at the bottom and click HIDE SIDEBAR. Well, clicked on the cog icon and there is no selection to hide the sidebar. Just what’s shown in the image.

  • Joseph Andrew Garbash Sr

    I have the same prob……………Used to be able to hide it a few days ago now no option to hide anymore………The option used to be where Charles has listed above………..HELP HELP
    ………

  • Tangy Acord

    Same Here…. Hellllp… FIX THIS!

  • puzzle

    I need help with this too. Please, anyone? I can’t hide the damn thing!

  • janice

    I am having the same problem also…..Facebook needs to fix this problem….

  • Andrew

    How do I stop timer showing how long ago I was on FBI ion chat side bar

  • guest1

    Me too! I’ve discovered you can get to full conversation by going to the settings in that little box, but is such a pain to do that EVERY single time! Looking for a fix! I hope one is found soon because this is driving me crazy!

  • Jimmy

    What sucks is that it will still show a green mobile symbol even if the person is not using facebook on their phone. If they have left facebook open on their phone, locked it and gone to sleep you will still see them as available on their mobile.

  • Poppyjaz

    Wow you guys have been dealing with this for a month. This started for me about two days ago, and it’s driving me nuts. I don’t use the chat windows at all. Now like mentioned above, I have to go to ‘full conversation’ and click, such a pain in the ass. and apparently there isn’t any way to stop it?

  • JohnG59

    Trying to close the sidebar – you say at point 5 to click on the cog and select Hide the Sidebar – I used to have this but don’t anymore.
    So how do I hide it??

  • guest2

    I see that I’m not alone… why did it start… that’s really really annoying…

  • Rahul Tiwari

    My chat sidebar options are not there.. The cog icon cannot be found so I can’t hide the sidebar.

    plz help me…
    Mob: 07303596673

  • Walt

    Hi guys, i’m new to Facebook so im not sure if this is a actual problem or not, but my chat bar where you see all your friends after you press chat at the bottom use to be a normal size, but just yesterday I pressed the chat button and now it pretty much takes up the whole page as in its really long if you could help me out with this it would be awesome :) hope you read this

  • Judy VandeVord

    Hey there…ok, my friends list is listed on the left side under all my other apps and such ( they’re all in a square ) they’re supposed to be listed vertically on the right side of my homepage…why can’t I move them back to right side????????????

  • Zainab Al-Habobi

    Hey there, I dont have the option of unhide sidebar chat, so how can I make it appear??

    Best Regards

  • http://facebook.com/Strawberry.Wespeon Susan Giang

    So I accidently opened the Chat sidebar AND IT WON’T GO AWAY!!!!!!! I clicked the option bar like hudreds of times and it won’t disappear……….does anyone have a tip to make it go away completely?

  • KS

    In my case the “hide bar” option is not working. Any help is welcome.

  • Ericka Sunday

    This exactly happens to me too~ But i’ve search some extensions in chrome so i can hide that freaking chat side bar.! This is the link https://chrome.google.com/webstore/detail/facebook-sidebar-remover/amikjonhhenkpddklcdhkbioiojplado?utm_source=chrome-ntp-icon . Hope it helps! ^_^

  • william jason o’neal

    I would like non friends to not pop up on the chat bar. I’m worried I am going to accidentally add someone.

  • Nithya Murugesan

    Sir in my fb the side bar is not displaying its wholely blank space only.then how can i work on it to turn on chat on as usualy

  • Allie

    I don’t have a sidebar at all!!!!!

  • Mari Smith

    what if I didn’t choose to on be chat line, but someone sent me a group msg
    making it 3 with me. Time passed and that person left linked to 3rd party…I then unknowingly send the person who linked me a msg does 3rd person read my personal msg?

  • Franklin Reid

    This information is three years old. The Options are not the same. I turned off everything including the tabs but it still is there. What can I do today?

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