Step one: log into Facebook. Step two: get bombarded by posts from family, friends, news outlets, and everything in between.
It’s clear that what you see on your Facebook feed can influence the way you see the world — and even your happiness. Research by Pew Research Center in 2016 showed that 66% of Facebook users receive news on the platform.
While it’s important to understand what’s going on in the world and how others are affected, there are ways to take control of the constant stream of new information just waiting to be consumed by users like you.
What we know about the Facebook algorithm
No one outside the company is certain about how the Facebook algorithm works, Will Oremus writes in a Slate article. But we do know that it checks and compiles what our friends have posted over the last week, updates from all the pages we’ve liked, and more, he writes.
For the average Facebook user, that’s more than 1,500 posts. If you have several hundred friends, it could be as many as 10,000. Then, according to a closely guarded and constantly shifting formula, Facebook’s news feed algorithm ranks them all, in what it believes to be the precise order of how likely you are to find each post worthwhile. Most users will only ever see the top few hundred.
Facebook’s website says users see posts based on their connections and what they do on the site so that they can see more posts that interest them by the friends they “interact with the most.” It adds that the post’s type and the number of comments can make it “more likely” for a post to be in your News Feed.
Facebook “frequently tweaks its computer code,”Fortune reported in a June story about more adjustments to its News Feed algorithm. Facebook has also reportedly tried to improve its feed by paying people to answer questions and write about their emotions toward stories, according to a Backchannel story in 2015.
So how do you get what you want out of your feed?
How to filter what you do and don’t see
To see your News Feed settings, go to Facebook and click on the down arrow symbol on the top right of the screen, then click on “News Feed Preferences.”
From there, you can unfollow a person, group, or page to “hide” its content — once at the page or profile, scroll over “Following,” and click “Unfollow” (for a profile) or “Unfollow this Page.” You won’t see any content in your feed from sources you “unfollow.”
You can also “hide” individual pieces of material to make them disappear from your News Feed by clicking the down arrow symbol and hitting “Hide.” You will see less from the source once you hit “See less from [name].”
Users can also report content by clicking “Report” by the material in various ways, depending on the type.
You can customize which posts appear at the top without the source knowing (30 people or pages at most, unranked). When on a profile of page, hit “follow” by the cover photo if you don’t do so currently, then scroll over “liked” or “following” near the same image, and hit “see first.” Users can also do this from their News Feed preferences.
The website further points out that this is not the same as “close friends” — you can choose to make people “close friends” and see every time they post something new.
If you’ve hidden or “unfollowed” someone or something on Facebook but now changed your mind about seeing fewer of their contributions or not wanting to see them at all, what can you do?
Just follow them again, and they won’t even know about it— this can be done on Pages, people’s profiles and from News Feed Preferences.
It’s up to you to take control
It’s clear that Facebook has the capacity to both educate and distract, but you can make an effort to see material from sources you’re interested in more often by taking these few easy steps.