Facebook users have a love-hate relationship with the world's most popular social network.

Facebook's community is unmatched in size, providing an unparalleled opportunity to remain in daily contact with friends, family and co-workers. Yet confusing and lax privacy controls, controversial redesigns and annoying applications make it a struggle to carve out a useful experience from the service.

There are many ways to optimise Facebook lurking beneath its occasionally Byzantine interface. What follows is an explanation of some of the most common complaints - and what you can do about them.

Many of these fixes are made possible by third-party web browser plug-ins, such as Better Facebook or F.B. Purity; both plug-ins run in Firefox, Safari, Chrome and Opera on Windows, Mac and Linux.

We've also encountered a few flaws that still can't be circumvented - at least not by users. Since Facebook is constantly trying to improve its service, we're detailing these annoyances in the hope that Facebook will eventually address them.

Problems that can be fixed

Unwanted friend requests
You joined Facebook to connect with friends, and it's flattering when old chums send you a friend request. But getting one from an ex-girlfriend or a boss you hated puts you in an awkward position. Do you accept their requests and let them into your trusted circle? Or do you say no, sending a clear if rude message of your disinterest in befriending those people?

The fix: Block people pre-emptively
Before you start searching for potential connections, make list of the people you don't want to befriend. Search for their profiles (you can narrow the results by email address, location, education or workplace). Once you find a profile, use the link in its lower-left corner to 'Report/Block this Person'. Be careful not to accidentally report users for something they haven't done, such as an inappropriate profile photo, fake profile, inappropriate profile info or unwanted contact. Simply block them, and you'll forever be invisible and unfindable to them, no matter how hard they look or how many mutual friends you have.

If the people you want to block aren't on Facebook yet, use the 'Account' dropdown menu in the upper-right corner to go to your privacy settings and click 'Edit your lists of blocked people and applications'. You can then enter their email addresses in the appropriate fields. If they ever sign up for Facebook with those addresses, they'll be automatically added to your block list.

If you prefer to block all friend requests, leaving you to initiate them, that option can also be found in your privacy settings. Under the section titled 'Connecting on Facebook', click 'View Settings'. Here, you can manage what information and actions, if any, are available to people searching for you, including the option to allow only current friends to search for your profile.

Note: Blocking people works best if your profile isn't already being publicly indexed; otherwise, you'll turn up in a simple Google search. To ensure you're not included in search engines' results, go to your privacy settings and edit those for applications and websites. On the next page, for the option titled 'Public search', click 'Edit Settings'. Finally, you'll be presented with the box 'Enable public search', which you should uncheck.

It's impossible to fully block one's Facebook activities from Google, though, unless you're using the 'ultimate fix'.

NEXT PAGE: Too many applications

  1. Alleviate common problems on the social network
  2. Too many applications
  3. Showing your friends list
  4. Searching your wall history
  5. Problems that don't have a fix
  6. The ultimate fix