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

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 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
  • Pete

    I’m getting so sick of facebook. I want complete and obvious control of what I share and with who. No actions I do should be shared with anyone, unless I chose to do so, and continuously facebook keeps doing it anyway.

    It’s not going to be that much longer, before I drop it.

    Unfortunately Google plus isn’t being much better at this yet, since in google plus I have no idea who can see what.

  • Bob

    I find it disturbing that you apparently don’t know the difference between ‘your’ and ‘you’re’ . . .

  • Vicky

    Equally disturbing is that you don’t know the difference between quotation marks and apostrophes.

  • Avseiler

    NEW DEVELOPMENT: The cog item was there in the past, & I used it to turn off chatting. Now my chatting has come back anyway. (Facebook never considers any setting to be permanent.) But now, today, for the first time, I do not HAVE the cog icon at the bottom on the right. I tried zooming back & back & back farther, but it ain’t gonna show up. IS THERE ANOTHER WAY TO TURN OFF CHAT AVAILABILITY? They certainly don’t tell you at Facebook.

  • Honieloulinggas

    i cant see my friend who is online in chat box??would you please help to resolve asap!!!!

  • SharonJ

    If I try to use the arrow] symbol and click Hide Sidebar, it disappears, but is added on to the side of my status updates. I really really hate this thing and would like it to go away. also, you said “You may want to hide the Chat Sidebar sometimes – that’s easy: click the cog icon > click “Hide Sidebar.” that is not an option for me.

  • SharonJ

    Plus, it is lonely on Google+ Not enough people have become fed up with Facebook yet. It is only a matter of time, I hope. The trouble is that Facebook is very intuitive, and Google+ is not

  • Pitcherman5

    same here 

  • kim

    That’s weird, i am ALways offline. ppl never see me unless i make myself visible. which is rare, that i do so. i’ve been invisible since i realized i could be, idk, maybe year ago.

  • fp

    it’s true, FB is faulting on ‘availability’ of the user to chat or not. one time you turn it off (hoping it’s permanent) then next time, you find your settings returning to ‘on’ without you touching a thing!

  • Lilliam Leason

    Customized Indianapolis Colts Jerseys

  • Rpka786

    god baed

  • Vineet Gupta

    Thanks for sharing this ..

  • LKeyes

    That you find such a simple matter “disturbing” is what I find disturbing.

  • MET28linden

    I want to hide the sidebar as the default setting.  It is very annoying.

  • Allyorkie

    I can’t turn my chat bar on–I have no chat icons, no blue box. no sidebar.  Any help?


       I cant see my friends who is online on the chat box. there is no icon in green color appear.and in the appear part of the chat box no appears the sign of video call and the sign of press ESC close. Need Help ASAP……

  • Sevenn7pure

    Its the Facebook APP on your phone thats doing it.  My niece had the same problem.  She logged in on a laptop, went unavailable to chat.  Logged out and logged back in on the laptop and she was still unavailable to chat.  She logged out on the laptop, then logged in with the App on her phone, then went back in on the laptop and she was available to chat again.

  • CowgirlD2006

    when you are limited to chat with only certain friends do they show up as available to you or are they offline to you? i tried to limit my chat but it made all my friends show up as offline even if they were online. anyone know what’s going on?

  • ali

    my chatbox opens itself and starts flickering

  • D_Shingler

    how can i permantly disable the sidebar ? i clase it go do some other stuff refresh the page and its back up does it over and over again 
    how can i permantly disable the side bar for good?

  • Biniam


  • Ken Winston Caine

    Yes. Isn’t there ANY way to make yourself PERMANENTLY unavailable to chat? So that when you log in to Facebook each session you are seen as unavaillable… Instead of every session when you log in you are, voila, AVAILABLE until you go in and change the setting.  I want MINE to default to unavailable. And when I rarely want to chat, I will change the setting for the person with whom I want to chat. Possible?

    I’m thinking that it is not possible currently. Can anyone prove me wrong?

  • Mohamedali Eg25

    how can i use the side bar to show new feed of pages i like?

  • Shubham Mathur

    thank u. for the information…

  • Abbie

    i cant find that supposed create a list button? :(

  • Halfbaked81

    I’m also having problems finding my lists and the create a lists button.

  • Freeran Geegs

    I’ve cleared my circles about a dozen times on G+. All folk seem to want to do is post photographs and meaningless content. It’s the most anti-social social site I’ve come across and I’ve been on quite some since they started coming on line.

  • whocares

    What bugs me is that I can log out of chat & close the entire thing down, but as soon as I refresh my page, I’m logged back in. Argh.

  • whocares
    looks like this works for everything but exploder. :)

  • blueeyedbabe

    I hid the sidebar and now i can’t get it back? Any ideas how to fix that?

  • Rocel Christian

    How do you remove people who stay on your chatbox even, if they’re offline? Like how some of my friends are above the part where it says, “More friends online(#)”… how do you remove those friends above it? thanks

  • Bryn71

    Same here, no matter how many times I sign out of that thing, I keep getting signed back in…

  • Israr chaudhry

    Whenever i switched off my chat it will seems to me that i had offline but i am still showing online in groups. WTF ????? :( Anybody helppppppppppp

  • Jkmoir

    The friends shown to the left of your profile change their order………..why?

  • Jane Andrew

    I hate Face book chat bar too. It destructs me and it
    occupies space and covers up screen.

  • JC

    Facebook went to hell in a handbasket, I’m surprised it’s still used.

  • Bienvenidojrespinosa

    how to disable video call? it keeps on popping out when i chat

  • Krutika Km

    whenever i m in my facebook account even though i am online no one my friend can see me and that green thought never appersw near by my name ….as i am online not getting that red notifications ..pls suggest me something

  • Hunter

    How do we change the name of a group conversation ? 

  • Sarra_73

    i wanna delete conversation in the skyope to facebook conversation window, and to make it not showin up. anybody aware how to do it?

  • Jake

    There are new facebook chat icons that you want to use and this is very exciting. There are Meme and Troll faces you can use.

    that site can teach you how to do it.

  • N S K N143

    can i delet cy conversations in both of our accounts

  • Meenu Malhotra

    How do you remove people who stay on your chatbox even, if they’re offline?

    The new sidebar doesnot show the green dot even if my friends are available, every time i have to goto hidden sidebar to check who is online?

  • yeminli tercüme bürosu

    How can I fix the sidebar :(

  • Charles Brucculeri

    i cant see my slider :( it disappear what should i do?

  • Scramblues

    I have no box to click to hide or unhide the chat sidebar.  It just disappeared for me and many others today.  No way to get it back.   What does “cog” icon mean?  I have no icon!

  • Acidram

    I have seen ,a friend on facebook and in the chat side bar.thats fine
    there was no dot by the persons name.How ever I also seen for the same
    person the persons photo vanish from the window and could not be found
    and then re-appear with (no dot ) as before. My question is if some one
    hides them selves in chat would this explain why i don’t see the persons
    photo or name ? does this mean they were online  ?

  • Felix

    How to disable this chatviibes/ video calll? It is very much disgusting, because every time I choose a friend to text chat with, chatvibes/video call keeps on inviting authomatically to a friend I have chosen.  

  • guest

    go to adds on option in your browser…then disable chatviibes…

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