In the past couple years, Facebook has made a push to become more of a news publishing platform, which is obvious, considering the fact that all of our news feeds mainly consist of advertisements, videos, shared content and trending news articles. Using algorithms based on your Internet history and interest, Facebook tends to recommend events, stories and ads based on a less personal experience.
Maybe you haven’t noticed it, but, if you remember correctly, your Facebook feed used to consist more of status updates, photos and shared stories or notes from your actual Facebook friends. In the old days of Facebook, you were mainly on there just to chat with your friends or keep up with family members. As Facebook started filling our feeds with news stories and ads, we started sharing less about our lives, meaning, Facebook has seen a decline in user-generated content and activity. Currently, you probably use Facebook to read the news, view videos, hide ads and then you head over to Instagram or Snapchat to share content about your life and interact with your friends.
If you feel melancholy for the old days of Facebook, there is a silver lining. Facebook has noticed this issue and frankly, they must be pretty worried about the fact that people aren’t posting much about their day to day as they used to. Over the past few weeks, Facebook has made a few interesting announcements that seem to hint at a return to its roots. Is it possible that Facebook is returning to being about your actual friends? While this news might be unfortunate for the publishing world, for Facebook users, this could be a happy reconciliation.
In case you haven’t noticed the changes in your feed, here’s a few new changes that Facebook is making in an effort to ditch algorithms and work off, well, human opinions and interests.
Photo courtesy of Justin Sullivan via Getty Images.
Facebook announced that it would be tweaking the algorithm for news feeds, essentially shoving publishers to the side. This means you should start seeing more posts from friends and family, and less from brands and marketers.
While this is good news for us, it’s pretty bad news for publishers who heavily rely on Facebook for traffic. When Facebook first made a change to the news feed back in 2015, The Huffington Post saw a 60% decline in traffic, whereas Buzzfeed saw a 40% decline.
“The goal of News Feed is to show people the stories that are most relevant to them,” said Adam Mosserio, VP product management news feed at Facebook wrote in a statement about the release. “That’s why stories in News Feed are ranked—so that people can see what they care about first, and don’t miss important stuff from their friends. If the ranking is off, people don’t engage, and leave dissatisfied.”
Another major change comes in the form of Facebook event recommendations. Where Facebook used to recommend events based on you and your friends’ interested through an automated system, the company will now make suggestions based on both human-based and algorithm-based recommendations. Essentially, this means a real person will act as a sort of curator to help suggest events (like concerts, museum openings or food festivals) that will feel more relevant.
In the featured events release page, Facebook explains that, “Featured events are selected by a team at Facebook to show people fun local things happening in specific cities. To determine which events are included on a list, the team regularly reviews local art, entertainment, family, festival, fitness, food and drink, learning, community, music and sports events. The team also considers factors including location and the team does not consider capacity and factors like whether or not the event host has bought ads for the event on Facebook.”
It has previously been believed that Facebook suggests friends based on your locations, a theory that worried many people about the possible privacy issues this could invent. This would mean Facebook was less about you and your friends because rather that suggestion people you are likely to know, it would be recommending anyone simply based on location data.
But, the good news is, Facebook seems to have officially cleared the air on this. Though they admit they were operating a project to test making friend recommendations based on citywide information, the company says it has since terminated this project. Currently, Facebook says it does not make friend suggestions based on location data, rather, recommendations are made based on mutual friends, work, educational background, networks you belong to or contacts you have imported from your phone and email.
The next time you visit your Facebook page (so in the next couple of seconds) take a scroll through your feed and maybe you’ll notice a few updates from some friends you haven’t heard much from lately. It might be subtle at first, but this shift from algorithms and automations feels like a return to the old, glory days of Facebook.