Have you noticed lately that your Facebook news feed is getting very negative? Unfortunately you have no one to blame but yourself, as it may be related to your own behavior on the site.
Facebook uses a somewhat complex algorithm that can even predict your political stance. It’s virtually impossible to blast 100 people of everything people post on to your news feed, so Facebook tries to tailor what you do see with the kind of topics it thinks you’ll enjoy engaging with.
To test a user’s ability to affect Facebook’s algorithm, we took an account that had become “contaminated” by political and other controversial posts, and worked to transform the news feed into a pleasant and uplifting one.
How Facebook “Knows” What You Like
So how does Facebook know what you want to see? And if it knows you so well, then why are you seeing so many controversial posts that can make you angry?
The reality is that Facebook’s algorithm isn’t perfect. You might be a health professional who expresses a lot of interest in cancer research. But Facebook may start showing you posts with scientific claims you strongly disagree with.
This is especially true if these posts are shared from your family and friends, since Facebook prioritizes those posts over others.
Facebook explains this on its Help Page, as follows.
“Posts that you see first are influenced by your connections and activity on Facebook. The number of comments, likes and reactions a post receives and what kind of story it is […] can also make it more likely to appear higher up in your News Feed.”
The post goes on to explain that the posts that get priority in your feed have the following characteristics:
- One of your friends or family members interacting with post from another friend of yours.
- Someone posting a comment to a post that one of your friends has shared.
- A lot of activity (comments) on a video or article one of your friends shared.
As you can see, there are two key elements that form what you see every time you log into Facebook. The first is your own activity on Facebook, but the second is what your Facebook friends are posting.
Your Own Activity on Facebook
The start of this experiment was an Facebook account inundated with the kind of posts that make people want to leave Facebook. Posts from both sides of current political, scientific, and societal debates.
The reality is that this account ended up this way because of the actions of the account owner. Engaging in controversy and debating everyone on Facebook causes Facebook’s algorithm to create a toxic environment.
Every time you log into Facebook, you’re confronted with more topics to get you upset, and more people who disagree with you to debate. Regardless of whether you agree or disagree with the posts in your news feed, this kind of environment can get exhausting.
Technical Fixes for Facebook Toxicity
There are many things you can do to save your account. Remember, the primary cause is your own activity. Second are the friends you keep.
Let’s go after the first issue: your own activity. Many of these are quick technical changes you can make right away. First, click the dropdown in your menu bar, and choose Manage Groups.
Click on Groups in the menu, and scan through all of the groups you’ve joined over the years.
Identify any that are political or controversial in any way. Click the Gear icon, and then Leave Group.
Once you’re done removing the controversial groups you’re a part of, it’s time to attack the Facebook Pages you have liked.
From your Facebook homepage, click on Pages in the left navigation menu. Then click on Liked Pages.
Again, go through the list and click on the pages you’ve liked over the years that are most likely to be contributing to your toxic news feed.
At the top of the page, you’ll see Liked and Following buttons.
Click on Liked and then Unlike this Page. Then click on Following and Unfollow this Page. You can learn more about what it means to follow or unfollow on Facebook before you do this, if you like.
Once you’ve unliked and unfollowed all of those pages, you’ll be well on your way to a brand new (and enjoyable) Facebook news feed.
For more technical tweaks you can make to customize your feed, go through our in-depth instructions on adding filters to keep politics out of your Facebook feed.
Detoxifying Your Facebook News Feed
After making the technical changes listed above, it only took a few hours for our experimental Facebook account to start looking better.
However, there’s still more you can do to organically “hack” Facebook’s algorithm.
Start going through your actual news feed, and when you spot controversial, toxic posts—whether it’s a group, page, or a friend—hide the ones you consider to be contributing to the toxicity.
To do this, just click on the three dots on the upper right side of the post. Then choose Hide post from the dropdown menu.
With our experimental account, we followed this procedure every time we logged into the account over the course of just a few days. Eventually, the sort of controversial posts you’re sick of seeing will stop showing up in the news feed.
You can learn more about how to mute people on social media if you have Facebook friends you want to silence, but don’t want to unfollow. Remember, your friends’ activities have a strong effect on the Facebook algorithm. So silence the ones who fuel the toxic environment.
You’re still not done. Now it’s time to take a proactive approach and rebuild the account into a more enjoyable experience.
Seek Out the Good Things on Facebook
Now it’s time to rebuild Facebook’s analysis of your likes and dislikes. Start by finding Pages and Groups that offer positive and uplifting topics you’re interested in.
Use the search bar at the top of your Facebook homepage to find those topics.
On the results page, explore the Pages and Groups links to find those Pages and Groups that you love.
When you spot good ones, just click the Like button on the right.
Keep searching for things that will bring positive thoughts and changes to your life. Discover new Facebook groups that will actually help improve your life.
When you spot Groups you like, click the Join button on the right.
Be very selective about the Groups you join, because posts from Groups can easily take over your Facebook feed. Very popular and active Groups will pop up many times a day in your feed.
This is why choosing the right Groups is a critical part of this process. So take the time to do this right.
Engage in Positive Ways on Facebook
At this point, the experimental Facebook account we set out to transform had no more controversial or toxic posts showing up in the news feed. The more positive groups filled the news feed with lots of funny, encouraging, and uplifting posts.
If you want to boost this positive effect to your feed even further, spend time every day interacting with people in those groups. Keep things positive and light. Avoid debating topics whenever possible.
If you’re a parent, consider joining supporting groups for moms and dads. If you’re a college student, join groups of others who are studying the same subject or students from the same college. There’s no better way to make true friends on Facebook than meeting people who are in a similar position as yourself.
If you keep this up, before long you’ll have transformed your toxic Facebook experience into one filled with positivity. The negativity will disappear, and your Facebook feed will become one where you actually look forward to logging into your account every day.
Wouldn’t it be nice to find yourself scanning through your Facebook feed and laughing or smiling instead of getting angry? This little experiment proved that not only is it possible, but you can accomplish it in a short space of time with minimal effort.
When it comes to using Facebook, this article just touches the tip of the iceberg. If you really want to dig deeper, you’ll want to pore over our in-depth guide to Facebook. It’s a great way to really take full advantage of your transformed Facebook account.