Obviously you control who your friends are on Facebook and what groups you join and pages you “like.” But what shows up in your “Top Stories” is controlled by the Facebook algorithm. It uses your actions – clicks, likes, comments – to prioritize content, along with other factors that you have less control over.
This spring an article was published showing that for one week in January 2012, staff at Facebook worked with scientists to study “emotional contagion” by manipulating how many sad or happy stories were shown to 689,003 users. Most people weren’t happy to hear that Facebook was experimenting on – not just with – its users.
Chicago-Kent’s Professor Valerie Koch weighed in on the story:
— Chicago-Kent Law (@ChicagoKentLaw) September 25, 2014
If you think you may be missing key content, or if you are concerned about how your feed is being manipulated, here are ways you can take that control back:
On a friend’s page, it’s easy to see if you’re “following them” – but you can go an extra step and click on your friend connection menu to get notifications for each post they make or add them to a list. “Close Friends” is one of the automatic lists, but you can create your own too.
Find your lists here, where you can choose your favorite lists:
When you are browsing the desktop (non-mobile) version of Facebook, you’ll be able to see everything posted by those people, even if the Facebook algorithm would normally hide it.
When you join a group, you can choose how often you want to see the updates shared in the group. Do you want to see everything? Just highlights? Nothing? You can also specify that you’ll only see posts from people you know. Find all of your groups at this link to review your current settings, note your favorites, etc.
Facebook has two major incentives to not show all the notifications from the pages you like. One is for users: if they show too many, you may feel your personal content has been drowned out by ads. One is for their own profit: if they show fewer updates and pages want to share more, they can charge pages to push more content to you. Which then become more like ads and the cycle begins again…
If you have specific pages that you’d like to see, you can use “Get Notifications” the same way you can for friends – it’s under the “Liked” menu:
And, just like for friends, you can also create lists – called “Interest lists” for pages, that give you a quick place to see all updates for pages on that list. Here’s one I’ve created for Chicago-Kent pages.
After the stories with Facebook’s experiments on users, several writers decided to try experiments with their own Facebook feeds to see what they could learn:
- I Liked Everything I Saw on Facebook for Two Days
- What happens when you hide everything on Facebook?
What did they find? You can annoy your friends very quickly when you start liking everything and those notifications flood their feeds. Also it’s very hard to get rid of certain types of content: engagement announcements, new jobs, birthdays, etc.
Whatever your strategy, it’s likely that Facebook will continue to decide what you need to see most, and there’s only so much you can do to work around that.