A Better Facebook for Family?
Dear Ms. Smartphone: I come from a large extended family and want to keep current with things back home. So I use Facebook to see what is happening. But, I also want to cut back on the time I spend on social media so that I can do my studies. I don’t check Facebook very often these days. My family says I am missing out on wishing happy birthdays and keeping up with news from their country. Honestly, I need a better Facebook for family! Arit, Cambridge
Dear Arit: It’s easy to imagine that you will miss that cute new baby video or a reminder about the birthday. Take these numbers skeptically as Facebook changes the rules frequently but in oldschool 2012 Techcrunch said that FB posts reached just 12% percent of our friends, and in 2020, newschool, an ad agency says it is a microscopic .4%!
Whatever the actual rate Facebook says it now has a solution. They are returning to their roots and announced a sea-change this month. Now you will be able to customize your page so that you see more content from friends and family. Before you start cheering, note that when you open the platform it will default to the home tab with FB’s the“discovery engine.” You will need to reset the “Feeds” tab to see the posts from friends and families instead (see image).
See this, done this:
Facebook has done this wiggle before. Hopefully this new one will present you with the real content you seek. When the platform first began nearly 18 years ago, it was just about the people who followed you and those you followed back. In 2009 they instituted their first algorithm to prioritize content with ‘likes.’ Now, as a giant advertising platform a FB spokesperson boasts that the algorithm ” ...can take in more than 10,000 different signals to predict a user’s likelihood of engaging with a single post.”
Facebook has known for some time that users like you, seek first the news from family and friends, not the other stuff. They have tried this strategy before. In 2018 they ditched the reverse chronological feed to bring, in their words “posts that sparked conversations and meaningful interactions.” Now, four years later they are returning to a chronological feed, alongside the discovery engine (and other options).
Family and Friends Are Buried?:
I honestly don’t use Facebook, but since I do post on Instagram I learned that only about ten percent of followers there see your new post! Here are few factors that determine what we see in our feeds: there are interests, based on what content you care about; relationships, the people you interact with or tag, and those you follow, usage– how you browse, and of course, frequency, how often you use the app and when the post was last shared. Here’s the irony: if you used the app more frequently to view family and friends, the algorithm should ‘know’ your interests better, show you the relationships that matter, and hence improve your usage! We all know it doesn’t work that way.
Hopefully this new Facebook pivot with the ability to customize your feed will resolve this. Even though you log on infrequently you will be able to change the settings to find more content from friends and family, not from outsiders. Perhaps one of these days Facebook will offer us a subscription service, instead of tailoring their service to advertisers. IMHO, If they charge users and dispense with ads, we might have a more valuable service and a better Facebook for family (and friends).