You probably have a handful of Facebook friends who post too often, play too many games or share too many pictures. These well-intentioned friends end up flooding your News Feed with noise.
The bad news: As Facebook continues to roll out more new Timeline apps, your News Feed will likely get even more crowded. The good news: There are several quick and easy fixes to cut down on what you don't care about and surface the information that matters.
Here's a look at four ways you can tweak your Facebook settings to cut down on News Feed junk and make that feature more productive for you.
1. An Alternative to "Unfriending"
If you have friends you want to remove from your Facebook like but think unfriending them is too harsh, there is an alternative: You can unsubscribe from them.
If you choose to unsubscribe from a friend, none of his or her Facebook updates will appear in your News Feed but you'll still be friends. They will still be able to contact you, and you can still contact them. That friend won't ever know that you've unsubscribed from them, which they could discover if you unfriend them.
To unsubscribe from a friend, visit his or her Facebook profile. On the top-right of his or her page, you'll see a series of buttons: Friends, Subscribed, Message or a gear icon. Click the Subscribed button to reveal a menu of options. To unsubscribe from your friend, click the "Unsubscribe" option.
You can also unsubscribe from friends right from your News Feed. To do so, hover over one of their posts and click the arrow for a drop-down menu. Here, you'll have the option to unsubscribe from your friend entirely or unsubscribe from just their status updates.
The other options in both of these menus are also worth noting. From both, you can choose the types of updates you want to see from your friend: "All Updates" if you're interested in everything; "Most Updates", which is the default setting and excludes some posts; and "Only Important," which will only show you updates such as changes in relationships, new jobs and location moves.
2. Hide Specific Applications from Your News Feed
If your News Feed is overcome with updates from Spotify or other applications and games, you can hide them for good. Here's how:
Hover above a specific post in your News Feed. Click the drop-down menu and select the last option, "Hide all by [whichever application you no longer want to see updates from]." Choosing this option means you'll never see updates from this application, regardless of the friend who's using it.
If you ever want to unhide updates from an application, scroll to the bottom of your News Feed and select "Edit Options." Here, you will see all the applications you've hidden from your News Feed. To start receiving updates and posts from one, click the X to remove it from the list.
3. Highlight Stories to Teach Facebook What's Important to You
You can sort the posts in your News Feed two ways: "Highlighted Stories First" and "Recent Stories First." Highlighted stories are ones that Facebook thinks will be most important to you.
If you sort your News Feed by "Highlighted Stories First," you'll notice that the top ones are designated by a blue corner in the top-left. To help Facebook learn which stories are and are not important to you, click the top-left corner of important stories and deselect ones that are not important.
Over time, Facebook will learn which posts you want to see, and will place these at the top of the highlighted story view, burying unimportant stories further down.
[Want more tips, tricks and details on Facebook? Check out CIO.com's Facebook Bible.]
4. Filter Your News Feed by Friend List
The new Facebook Friend Lists, which launched in September, automatically group some of your friends based on who you interact with most, family members, coworkers and geography.
While these lists make limiting access to your profile, updates and photos easier, they're also a good way to skip the firehose of News Feed noise and view only updates from friends you care about.
After you've created new lists or edited the ones Facebook has created for you, look for the "Lists" section on the left-column navigation. Sometimes "List" will be found under "More."
If you have several lists, sometimes only the first few will show up. Hover over this section for the "More" option, then click to see all your lists. To view only updates from friends on that list in your News Feed, click the list name.
Kristin Burnham covers consumer technology, social networking and enterprise collaboration for CIO.com. Follow Kristin on Twitter @kmburnham. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Kristin at email@example.com