How Facebook Guesses What You Want to See (And How to Tell It Directly)

facebookEver wonder how Facebook chooses which of your friends pop up frequently versus those who seem to stay buried?

The social networking giant employs a carefully-designed algorithm (which used to be called Edgerank) to determine what shows up on your newsfeed.

Based on your personal information and click history, this algorithm attempts to guess which friends you want to see more of and which you don’t care about as much.

Post types are also factored in heavily. For example, if you click on a lot of photos, expect to see more of them. Same goes for personal statuses, videos, and web links.

Customizing Your Facebook News Feed Items

Recently, Facebook has been taking more aggressive steps to limit the exposure of low-content memes and other types of content it deems “poor quality.”

But the algorithm can only guess, and it also relies heavily on people like you telling Facebook exactly what they want; or more commonly, what they don’t want.

If there is a particular person on your friends list who you don’t want to see but you don’t want to actually unfriend, you can hide all of their updates permanently. To do this hover your cursor over the upper-right side of an update and a little arrow in a box will appear, which gives you a few different options after you click.

To manage these hidden people and pages, you can go to your (somewhat well-hidden) News Feed Settings, which also gives you some other options.

Facebook has also been asking users more directly what they like and don’t like to see as well as why they feel that way.

For example, if you go to hide an update, you have the option to hide all future updates from that friend, hide all future posts from the source (like Huffington Post, or Buzzfeed, or Bitstrips, or Whatwouldisay, or whatever meme is making the rounds that week), or tell Facebook “I don’t want to see this.”

Then after choosing one of these options, you get a followup:

Why don’t you want to see this?

  • It’s annoying or not interesting
  • I think it shouldn’t be on Facebook
  • It’s spam

What’s wrong with this post?

  • Rude or vulgar
  • Sexually explicit
  • Harassment or hate speech
  • Violence or other harmful behavior
  • I think it’s unauthorized use of my intellectual property
  • Other

What’s wrong with this post?

  • It’s a meme and has nothing to do with me
  • It looks or feels too commercial
  • It’s trying to get me to like or share something
  • Something else

What kind of spam?

  • Just a spammy post
  • (Friend’s Name)’s account is hacked
  • This is a fake account

All of this shows that Facebook is constantly tweaking its algorithms and needs your input in helping show them what is spammy, artificially-inflated, or simply not relevant to you.

Some would say that a constantly learning algorithm that peers into your personal data and adapts based on your desires is creepy. Others would argue that the ulterior motive of all of this personalization is to serve you more and more ads that will earn more profits for the now public company.

But if it’s done in a somewhat transparent manner, gives you the power to go in and adjust preferences, and ultimately improves user experience, I’d say it’s a pretty good trade-off.


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