Like many other social media platforms, Facebook has a feature that tracks the location of your friends and informs you if any of them are near your current location. This feature is called Nearby Friends.
Launched in 2012, it was among the first features of its kind. Originally, it only showed a list of friends that are near you and the distance between the two of you. In 2018, Nearby Friends was redesigned to resemble Snapchat’s Snap Map – a map that pinpoints your friends’ locations at any given moment.
However, some users have noticed that their location or the location of their friends as shown on the map isn’t always up to date. While in some instances the location is exact, in others a timestamp shows that the location was last updated a few minutes or more ago.
This has prompted a common question – how often does Nearby Friends update?
How Often Is Your Location Updated?
Facebook uses a combination of internet technologies – Wi-Fi, GSM, 3G, and GPS – to determine your exact location and transmit that info to the app. As long as you constantly have a stable internet connection, your Nearby Friends location should be updated at all times. Furthermore, the higher the quality of your internet connection, the more precise the location Facebook assigns your phone.
As a rule, there are two possible reasons why your Nearby Friends location might be out of date.
Firstly, if your phone doesn’t have access to the internet, there is no way for Facebook to know where you are. As such, your last known location will be displayed with a timestamp denoting when that location was recorded. Secondly, you can manually switch off location tracking, in which case – again – your friends will only be able to see the last location that was recorded before you turned off the future.
Is the Nearby Friends Feature Automatically Enabled?
Although Facebook isn’t quite known for respecting their user’s privacy, they have to save face in light of the recent scandals, so they seem to be more careful with their user’s data. As such, Nearby Friends is an opt-in feature. To use it, you have to enable Location Services on your iPhone or Android smartphone.
If you use Facebook on an iPhone, here’s what you need to do:
- From your Home screen, tap on Settings.
- In the Settings menu, tap on Privacy.
- Tap on Location Services and toggle the switch to “on”.
Here is how to do it on Android devices:
- Tap on the Settings icon, either from the Home screen or the app drawer.
- In the Settings menu, scroll down and tap on Applications (or Apps).
- Scroll down the list of installed apps, find Facebook, and tap on it.
- In the Permissions section, tap on Location and toggle the switch to “on”.
Of course, if at any moment you wish to stop sharing your location, you can repeat the steps for your device and toggle the switch next to Location Services back to “off”.
Should You Enable Background Location on Android?
With Location Services turned on, Android users can also allow Facebook to track their location even when the app is turned off. If you’re willing to give Facebook access to this information, here is what you need to do to enable this feature:
- Tap on the Settings (“hamburger”) icon in the Facebook app.
- Go to Settings & Privacy.
- Select Privacy Shortcuts, and then tap on Manage Your Location Settings.
- Toggle the switch next to Background Location to “on”.
As with Location Services, you can turn off Background Location by toggling the switch back to “off”.
How to Use the Nearby Friends Feature
To access the Nearby Friends feature, do the following:
- Open the Facebook app on your phone.
- Tap on the Settings (“hamburger”) icon in the top-right corner.
- Scroll down the list and tap on Nearby Friends.
If you have already turned on Location Services, you will be taken straight to the map. If you haven’t, select Friends in the dropdown menu on the next page to allow friends to see your location.
Because the Nearby Friends option is a two-way street, if you leave the selection as “Only me” and prevent others from seeing your location, you won’t be able to use it.
A Word About Location History
If you enable location sharing, Facebook will automatically save every single location it records and store it in your location history. This essentially means that Facebook will have a complete digital record of all the places where you have used the app (or worse, all the places you have ever visited if you enable Background Location).
While the idea of someone tracking your every step is a bit frightening, thankfully, you can delete individual items from your location history, as well as the entire history at once. However, you must remember to do this regularly if don’t want to risk this information getting in the wrong hands.