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It’s no secret that I love using Facebook – a fact that’s obvious from my recent article about Facebook myths. I like the ability to stay in touch with the family every single night, when formerly I would go months without hearing anything about what’s going on with my family. Not because I wasn’t interested enough to call, but because I just didn’t have time. But the ability to check out the latest news in their lives, and to comment and let them know that I’m thinking about them and excited about my nephew’s latest school achievement or my siblings impending marriage – it’s just all good, in my book.
If you are like me and enjoy interacting with friends on Facebook, then you’ve probably noticed the shift on Facebook over to a monetized approach. This is an approach where people that are willing to “Promote” their post as “important” will have that post displayed across a wider subset of friends. Or at least, that’s how it comes across. This approach led to an outcry of angry users and bloggers asking whether this meant that unpaid posts were now being suppressed. Facebook denies the claim.
In an article published by Nick Bilton of the New York Times, Facebook responded to the claims by responding that the news feed algorithm doesn’t “artificially suppress free distribution in order to get people to purchase promoted posts or ads.” Instead, Facebook told the New York Times that the news feed algorithm takes a number of factors into account, based on, “…years of carefully monitoring how people engage with News Feed, we have found that algorithmically showing the most relevant content is a better user experience and leads to more engagement over all.”
How and why Facebook considers one of your friends posts to be more relevant to your interests remains a mystery, but what doesn’t remain a mystery is that you can in fact influence or override what Facebook does with your news feed. You can literally tell Facebook with no uncertain terms that you want to see every single thing that specific friends post, and Facebook will listen.
Taking Control Over What’s “Important” To You
There are a lot of things about Facebook that annoy people – not just the annoying things that people post. In my case, I got really frustrated at the beginning when there were certain friends that I realized I was missing updates from. These were really good friends, and I was interested in just about every single thing they posted (except for game updates – I hate game status updates).
I ignored this for a while, and just made it a point to visit their personal walls to check up on them and comment on their latest updates. Still – this is really an annoyance. Who the hell wants to have to remember to visit 20 or 30 friend pages every day, just because Facebook no longer automatically posts their updates to the news feed for you? I knew there had to be a way around such madness.
To see what’s really going on here, click on your friends list and take a look at the “Friends” button next to each of your friends’ names.
You’ll start to get an idea of why you’re getting updates from some people more than others once you start investigating here. Click on the button, and you’ll find an assortment of status update selections. Some of your friends will have “Show in News Feed” selected, some won’t. Some will have “Get Notifications” selected, and some won’t. I could find no real pattern here – most of these selections I never remember making myself. They appear to have simply formed over time, maybe based on my own interactions with these friends?
You may think that having “Show in News Feed” selected is enough to see everything a person posts, but I’ll show you in a minute that that is not necessarily true. Now, there are people like Angela that seek to reduce the number of Facebook notifications they get, but I actually like the convenience of notifications. The fact is that there is one single way to guarantee beyond a shadow of a doubt that you’ll see every single thing that someone very important to you posts, and that is to enable “Get Notifications” for a particular friend.
This will ping you with a new notification every time they post. You won’t miss a thing. When it comes to the News Feed though, that’s a trickier beast to tame. If you click on “Settings…” under “Show in News Feed”, you’ll discover that as far as Facebook is concerned, there are different degrees of “Show in News Feed”. You can select to see All Updates, Most Updates, or Only Important updates. You can also further customize what you see by adding or removing things like Photos, Games, Life Events, etc…
What the heck does “Only Important” mean? Well, if you hover over the “Promote” link on your own posts, you’ll see that Facebook lets you pay to promote your posts as Important. Important posts are more likely to show up across your entire friends list – mostly because it sort of overrides the “Most Updates” option many people may have set for you.
It insures that those people see that particular update, even though they may not normally see your others. The problem is that as I went through my friends that I considered to be the most important to me, I noticed that only my own family were guaranteed to have “All Updates” selected for the news feed setting. I noticed with the rest of my friends that the setting was completely random. I was very surprised to see that even with some friends that I interact with a lot on Facebook, the setting had defaulted to “Most Updates”, which explained why I wasn’t seeing all of their posts.
So, for my closest friends who I follow closely, I take out double-insurance to make sure I see their updates. I make sure the “All Updates” setting is enabled for them, and I also make sure “Get Notifications” is enabled. When I do that, I am notified every time that friend posts an update.
It works, and I like it. Nothing gets suppressed. To be honest, I think a lot of the “suppression” rumors floating around there in the media stem from people not really understanding the fact that these Friend settings exist, and that they appear to be randomly set based on whatever “algorithm” Facebook has come up with.
The good news is that it really does appear you have the ability to override that, but you have to be willing to take the time to go through and adjust the settings for all of your friends – or at least for those friends where you really want to see every single thing they post. And if you really want to see everything, go with the notifications. Unless of course you have a friend like me who posts many times a day, in which case you may want to suppress all notifications for that friend and run for the hills.
The bottom line is that you do still have some ability to customize what your news feed looks like. Have you used these settings before? Have you ever tried promoting your posts? What are your experiences with each of those features? Share your insights and thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credits: Social Group via Shutterstock