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
  • Karan Lugani

    Read how to go to old facebook chat here : http://www.goo.gl/4NQm5 / Don’t forget to leave a comment

  • Nobody

    Duh… try reading #2 above again — turn off your chat availability entirely

  • abdul kashim

    my sidebar is not there how do i get it back

  • Sir Stu

    It’s a pity there’s not a way to disable the chat completely.  I’m sick of people attempting to pester me with it :P – The worst part is that many mobile phone social-apps will turn it back on as they refresh. Grrrr!

  • Valkeiu

    I actually loved the sidebar since I am not on facebook for much else than to chat with friends I never see…..I want it back now lol, the first facebook change I really liked…..

  • christian louboutin outlet

    It’s a pity there’s not a way to disable the chat completely.

  • Scott Ricketts

    Did I miss something? you told us everything we already know and not how to only have online friends appear in the the bloody chat windowwindow

  • Cool Looks

    How i can get new chat sidebar?

    How i can update to new chat sidebar?

    PLZ Answer

  • Cool Looks

    How i can get new chat sidebar?

    How i can update to new chat sidebar?

    PLZ Answer

  • http://www.toddejones.net/ tejones

    Mari, fb keeps putting me back available when I try to stay unavailable for chat.  It is getting real annoying.  Apparently my settings do not stay.

  • Eva

    mine has & it will probably drive me batty til I figure how to get the new one back!

  • CMMDREX

    I have a problem with the fact that my boyfriend and I broke up three months ago and everytime i get onto facebook i have to constantly see him in my sidebar. How do i just remove friends from the side bar without defriending them?

  • Zawl Pala K

    i have one problem…i can do goup chat, but i can’t do personal chat, and also when i click on cog icon i can’t see limit availability…please help…. on facebook: Zawl Pala K

  • Shafraz Mhmd

    put him to a new list and make it unavailable for chat… but you have to remove him from all the other lists u made which are available for chat

  • Shafraz Mhmd

    put him to a new list and make it unavailable for chat… but you have to remove him from all the other lists u made which are available for chat

  • J.A.M.

    HELP HELP.  Can anyone help me with something I don’t see listed here.  I click on a name, chat box drops down, I type under the chat box, then ‘enter’ for words to go up into the chatbox (for them to see); however, it just stays there, and won’t go, so they don’t know I’m trying to “chat” – as they see nothing.  If I empty my browser, for awhile, that would fix it, and would allow me to use chat again, but now, I’ve tried emptying browser multiples times, and I can go thru the beginning steps – box drops down, I type in the long rectangular area, THEN PROBLEM – it won’t pop on up into the chat box for them to read.  Soooo…. everyone thinks I’m online, send messages, I open chat box, but my typed words will not go into the chat box to read.  They stay in the typing area.  HELP.

  • ja.mladenec

    I can still see friends foto in my side bar on the right side everytime I turn it on. can I remove his photo somehow?

  • ja.mladenec

    I can still see friends foto in my side bar on the right side everytime I turn it on. can I remove his photo somehow?

  • JT

    Same with me. Plus I don’t have any options in my “cog”. All there is is available to chat and chat sounds. Every time I open Facebook on a new day the chat is back online. I do not like to chat at all and do not like the fact that Facebook is so not user friendly on their privacy options. Hope someone finds a way to turn off chat for good until I want to use it. 

  • JT

    Wrong! It logs you back in a day later. People are here for help not attitude. 

  • Raisa

    I lost my new chat sidebar about 2 weeks ago. I want it back my friend still has it, she uses my computer and my browser! DO you know anyway to bring it back? I loved it

  • Raisa

    I lost my new chat sidebar about 2 weeks ago. I want it back my friend still has it, she uses my computer and my browser! DO you know anyway to bring it back? I loved it

  • David Murray

    I cannot see the sidebar chat or any way to enable it please help

  • Bigmouthc99

    you have to click on the right side of the bar that says Chat (offline). If you just click on the middle of that box, it brings up your friend chat list but not the new news feed. You need to click the right side of the box to bring that back.

  • Polly

    My chat cog only has two options, available to chat and chat sounds. Do I need to update my browser to get “limit chat availability”, or will that work once I have created friend lists?

  • http://www.seniorhomecareusa.com Sheila

    Thanks for sharing all of the information:)

  • http://www.dennisjsmith.com Dennis J. Smith

    Facebook chat features fail. I’ll stick with G+ Hangouts for now. But not until I get a haircut.

  • http://www.dennisjsmith.com Dennis J. Smith

    Facebook chat features fail. I’ll stick with G+ Hangouts for now. But not until I get a haircut.

  • chethan g nayak

    i missed the fb phonebook, even i click edit friends i wil get d same sidebar which shows wall, photos, frnds ,etc but not contacts.
     

  • chethan g nayak

    i missed the fb phonebook, even i click edit friends i wil get d same sidebar which shows wall, photos, frnds ,etc but not contacts.
     

  • Yawannabeeton

     Hey does anyone know how to revert back to an older version of facebook? I really don’t like the new one they have. The sidebar is too big and unorganized. It just kinda is annoying to me and I don’t really like all the annoying scrolling and stuff. Can anyone help me?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Susie-Meddock/100001123050691 Susie Meddock

    no one likes the new facebook page at all! no ones game feeds are showing up, no none can help anyone.half our news feeds arent even posting.we had fun the old way now its just a pain. what to do , what to do…no help cant contact anyone and facebook doesnt care

  • Lredgrl55

    Is there a way to see who’s available to chat  but  where people can’t see me as visable to chat. Sneaky I know

  • Nileshgaonkar94

    im Online but m nt vi$ible onl9 to my freindzz! 

  • randi hitchcock

    Ok, but how do I get rid of the annoying scrolling “news feed on steroids”?!? I want it to STOP updating every 1/2 a second!!! Thanks!

  • Vandana15

    Yes! Apparently if u scroll down on ur FB wall there is an icon ‘facebook 2011 english US’…..change that to ‘English UK’ and it goes back to the old version!

  • Vandana15

    It takes some time to update….when u sign back in after a while u won’t see that ‘deleted’ person on chat :)

  • Kpjones072

    you can stop the ticker if you have google chrome go to the chrome store and search disable facebook ticker, install and it’s gone!

  • Dfr

    Damn like get a life and speak real English, you the type of person wondering why you didn’t get the jobs you always wanted and end up on the streets with a cup in your hand asking for money from total strangers.

  • Julie Clinch

    How can I stop people reading all my comments on other people walls.  Will this comment come up in the tracker on friends home pages too?  :O(

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Dan-Apted/100000071661342 Dan Apted

    The chat sidebar is less than useless, it is anoying and frustrating. I only want to see who is available to chat, not a whole list of unavailable folks

  • Stealth help

    On the box that you described above, I am offline. But when I am in a group page, I am still available for chat. The indicator is the green light that’s lit on the bottom right of my thumbnail. This thumbnail photo is located along with the ‘members’ box on the top right of the group page.

    How do I get rid of that green light so i can really be on stealth mode?

    Thanks

  • Stealth help

    On the box that you described above, I am offline. But when I am in a group page, I am still available for chat. The indicator is the green light that’s lit on the bottom right of my thumbnail. This thumbnail photo is located along with the ‘members’ box on the top right of the group page.

    How do I get rid of that green light so i can really be on stealth mode?

    Thanks

  • Stealth help

    Is there a way for my updates not to flow on other peoples News Ticker? It’s like hanging laundry on the front lawn.

  • Robinparamaribo

    http://www.facebook.com/pages/Dislike-The-FB-sidebar-ticker/236558056393841 We don’t want this new Facebook ticker! Say no to this new ticker!

  • Badd0g4u

    didnt work for me any other suggestions Thanks

  • Millimowze

    Any way to permanently be unavailable to chat? Everytime I sign on it puts me back in available. If I wanted to be available to chat I would do it myself.

  • Gaurimac

    in the chat side bar….the lower shows the online friends but above that it also shows few people.Who are these people,the one whom I have chatted recently or the people who were online few time back.
    please reply on gaurimac@gmail.com

  • http://www.vineetgupta.net Vineet

    FB chat has been roller coaster for its users in past few dayz ;)

  • Pete

    I hate it. I can’t turn it off. Clicking the available thing doesn’t do anything. I have no interest in anyone being able to see when I am online on facebook. If I want to chat, I’ll go online and visible in a messenger program. Just because I check my facebook page, does not mean I’m interested in chatting.

    I want to be permanently offline, but facebook is of course too retarded to do this.

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