How Does Facebook Decide What Shows Up in Your News Feed, Anyway?
On Sunday, a story broke revealing that Facebook joined with researchers to manipulate the News Feeds of about 700,000 randomly selected profiles, all in the name of a psychological study.
“The researchers,” the AFP wrote, “wanted to see if the number of positive or negative words in messages the users read determined whether they then posted positive or negative content in their status updates.”
The experiment — and the public outcry that followed — implies a fraught relationship between the world’s largest social network and the people who use it. Facebook picks and chooses which of your friends’ posts surface in your main News Feed; the experiment was a special case, of course, but it raises a broader question: What factors normally determine whether a Facebook post shows up for you?
First, it’s important to acknowledge that Facebook has been tweaking the algorithm that influences your News Feed since it introduced the feature. And it has never revealed the method by which it chooses those posts.
“Of the 1,500+ stories a person might see whenever they log onto Facebook, News Feed displays approximately 300,” wrote Facebook advertising executive Brian Boland in a Facebook post in June 2014. “To choose which stories to show, News Feed ranks each possible story (from more to less important) by looking at thousands of factors relative to each person.”
In other words: Facebook is not Twitter or Instagram or Tumblr. You do not see every single post from every single person you’re friends with.
And rightly so! A constant stream of posts from every single one of your friends would get exhausting and annoying. And as I’ve written before, it’s a bit of a social faux pas to unfriend a person just because you don’t like her feed.
How this algorithm plays out in your News Feed is still murky to the public. Though Facebook offered a few scant details about its process last year, the thousands of factors that go into this recipe are largely kept under wraps. Here, however, is what we know can determine whether you’ll see a Facebook friend’s post or not:
Hiding a post
Every time you come across something you find stupid or unsavory, you have the option of communicating that sentiment to Facebook, so it can adjust what you’ll see in the future.
Facebook will then give you three options of feedback, so it can better identify what you want to view.