Social networks are a steady stream of updates from your family and friends, or people you are interested in. But how you see these updates is slowly changing. Facebook was the first to introduce an algorithmic timeline, and Twitter and Instagram are now following suit.
Not everyone is happy about this. In fact, some suggest that an algorithmic timeline is the death of Twitter. So let’s find out what this change means for you, why you might want to disable it, and how to go back to the old view.
What Are Algorithmic Feeds?
From March/April 2016, Twitter and Instagram will no longer order your timeline or news feed chronologically. Instead, smart software will analyze your existing timeline and figure out what you need to read first and what you should read later. Facebook, of course, has been doing this for a long time now.
In a way, the social networks are deciding what you should be reading. It’s not a simple layout where your timeline first shows whatever is posted latest, followed by the next most recent post, and so on. What this also means is that you aren’t in control any more.
On Twitter, this is a new version of the ‘While You Were Away’ feature, where Twitter curated the best tweets from your timeline when you hadn’t checked it for some time—like when you were sleeping.
Instagram was bought by Facebook for a billion dollars not too long ago, so it’s not surprising that the photo-based social network is adopting a similar strategy as its parent company.
Pros of Algorithmic Feeds
To be fair to the companies, they have good intentions behind these algorithmic timelines. Not everyone checks their social networks all the time, so you don’t want such casual users to think their timelines are filled with random junk. If there has been an interesting conversation or post, you want them to see it to understand how useful that social network is.
Instagram estimates that users miss around 70% of their feed. So it only makes sense to reorder the feed to put things you will like at the top.
Plus, it’s not like you miss out on any content. Both Twitter and Instagram have said that this new change only affects the order of the posts; it doesn’t hide or delete any. So “interesting” posts will be shown at the top, again from newest to oldest, followed by the rest of the posts in the current reverse chronological order.
Even as a power user, this feature is bound to save you some time if you find interesting stuff first and don’t have to scroll back a long way to find it.
Cons of Algorithmic Feeds
That said, this change intimately affects several factors. Naturally, it disrupts the user experience you are accustomed to.
When you see something on your timeline and want to comment, you will now have to check the timestamp to see if your comment is still relevant or not.
You’re also dependent on the algorithm’s smarts, and that means you have to interact more with your social network for the algorithm to get better. Basically, start tapping that Like button on the kind of photos and tweets you like, engage in conversations with people who you want on your timeline more often, and so on, so that the network “learns” what you like.
A company having control over your timeline can be a big issue. Facebook, for instance, already restricts how many times a brand’s posts can appear in your News Feed. You might like Make Use Of’s Facebook page, but that doesn’t mean you’ll see all updates from it in your timeline. While Twitter and Instagram haven’t announced such a move yet, it can’t be far away.
Of course, the business model of social networks is dependent upon ads. They now have the power to insert ads in the right order on your timeline, and they are gaining more information about you as well. While we think it’s time to embrace and make ads better for yourself, this is still a bit uncomfortable.
If you scheduled posts at a certain time every day, there’s no guarantee that your audience will see it at that time.
And finally, if you are a social marketer, you can chuck out a whole bunch of the rules you learnt because these new timelines are changing the game. Instagram users are already noting drops in likes and followers because of the new algorithm, so you’ll need to learn new tricks to get more likes and comments.
How to Disable Twitter’s Algorithmic Feed
Of the three social networks, Twitter is the only one to let you opt out completely. Here’s how to do it.
- Go to Profile > Settings > Timeline
- Uncheck the box for “Show me the best tweets first”
- Save changes
This method works on the web, Android, and iOS apps. The algorithmic feed is so far restricted only to the official app, so you can safely use third-party Android apps and iOS Twitter clients without a worry.
How to Disable Instagram’s Algorithmic Feed
So far, Instagram hasn’t offered a way to change your timeline to display posts in the old reverse chronological order, or make that a permanent setting.
On the bright side, this new order will be rolled out slowly over the next few months, and Instagram has promised to actively implement user feedback. So all your Instagram tips and tricks might be intact for now. And in case you don’t like the feature or just want an option to go back to the old timeline, let them know!
Another solution for when the roll-out is complete is to use one of many third-party Instagram web clients and mobile apps to view your Instagram feed.
How to Disable Facebook’s Algorithmic Feed
The first to go for an algorithmic feed, Facebook has stuck with it. In fact, while there are several ways to control your Facebook news feed, there is no option to permanently go back to a chronological timeline.
The best you can do right now is to use Facebook friends lists to choose who will be visible, and to change the order of the feed once you have started the app on your phone or visited the website.
On the Facebook website, click the drop-down arrow in News Feed in the sidebar and click Most Recent.
In the Facebook app, tap Settings (the three-line “hamburger” icon) > Feeds > Most Recent.
Do You Love Algorithmic Feeds or Hate Them?
All across the Internet, people seem to have really strong opinions about the new algorithmic timelines on Twitter and Instagram. So we want to know what you think!
Do you love or hate the idea of algorithmic feeds? Had you liked Twitter’s “While You Were Here” feature? Is this all just a lot of hullabaloo about a non-issue?
Image Credits:robot arm by Willyam Bradberry via Shutterstock