You should know that Facebook can play with your emotions.
If you’re reading this you’re probably aware that your Facebook feed doesn’t simply serve you the latest posts from the friends and pages you follow. Given that most of us follow hundred — if not thousands — of people, places and brands, a real-time feed would dramatically change the Facebook experience. And it would likely greatly reduce engagement, which is the site’s life force.
But if you do know this, you may be in the minority.
A new study from a team of researchers from University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, California State University, Fresno and the University of Michigan found that most of a group of 40 Facebook users, 62.5 percent had no idea that their feed is filtered by the world’s largest social network. And not knowing that actually seemed to have negative affects on users’ psyches.
“In the extreme case, it may be that whenever a software developer in Menlo Park adjusts a parameter, someone somewhere wrongly starts to believe themselves to be unloved,” the researchers wrote.
The study used a tool to create an unfiltered feed that showed them what they’d been missing. While they weren’t thrilled how Facebook decided which friends posts they’d see, “[m]ost came to think that the filtering and ranking software was actually doing a decent job,” Fusion‘s Alex Madrigal writes.
In 2014, Facebook partnered in an academic paper that revealed it had manipulated users feeds to adjust how many positive and negative posts they saw. It found that moods were contagious. Positive feeds led to positive posts and vice versa. Users agree to such manipulation in Facebook’s terms and conditions — which you clearly know by heart — but the revelation still led to a huge backlash.
In the recent study, participants found that being aware they were being fed stories by Facebook’s algorithm “bolstered overall feelings of control on the site” and led to more active engagement. So if you didn’t know a formula was guiding your interactions before you probably already feel better.
But there’s more you can do if you want to make sure Facebook is showing you the things you actually want to see.
1. Be proactive.
Go directly to the pages of the people, companies and artists you want to see more of then engage. Like posts or comments. Comment yourself. Share posts. Facebook’s motivation is to keep you on the site as long as humanly possible–and it’s very good at it. If it’s not showing something you’d enjoy seeing, it probably would like to. So let it know.
2. Choose “Most Recent” posts.
In the left column of your home page, click on the arrow next to “News Feed”. If you select “Most Recent”, your experience will likely be less filtered. Though you still should not to expect to see every post that ends up on the site.
3. Go to News Feed Preferences.
Click on the down arrow that’s on every Facebook page and select News Feed Preferences. The goal here is to unfollow anything you’re sick of seeing so you get more of what you do want. Or re-follow people or things you’ve missed.
4. Tell your feed what you like.
Facebook wants you to take an active role in adjusting your algorithm. That’s why every post in your feed has a dim down arrow that you can select. If something really bugs you, tell Facebook you don’t want to see and Unfollow the person or page. If you really love it, you can “Turn on notifications” which guarantees that every future post ends up in your notifications — that little globe on the top navigation. Your notifications can act as a secondary newsfeed to make sure you don’t miss posts from your favorites.
5. Switch to Twitter and Tweetdeck.
If you want complete control over your newsfeed, you’re never going to get it on Facebook. Even Twitter is moving away from this method of feeding content for a pretty simple reason, it needs more engagement. Given that Facebook and Twitter employee dozens if not hundred of programmers and experts paid to make their sites captivate you, they figure they’re better at it than you. If you want to prove them wrong, Twitter’s Tweetdeck app, which works in your browser, still offers unmediated newsfeeds so you can feed your own brain. Twitter isn’t quite as personal or ubiquitous as Facebook — but it is the next best thing. Try it out and see if you feel more loved.
[Photo by Geraint Rowland | Flickr]
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