Facebook news feed preferences boost experience

It seems as though every time Facebook makes some significant change, the world responds in mass protest.

Of course, you won’t see picket lines or overturned, burning vehicles. But you will hear about it at the water cooler, or you’ll read about it in posts from friends most disrupted by whatever change Facebook has made.

In Facebook’s defense, these changes are often not as dramatic as everyone makes them out to be. For example, when Facebook forced mobile users to switch to its new Messenger app, the initial reaction was akin to the feeling of finding out a favorite TV show was canceled.

We’re annoyed, and maybe even angry for a few days, but we eventually move on (and often find a new favorite show on the same day, time and network).

As with Messenger, most of us succumbed to Facebook’s plot for world domination. We downloaded the app and started using it immediately.

Like many of you, I was annoyed by the push to use Messenger. My initial thought was, “Don’t change my stuff. I like things the way they are.” One year later, I’m begrudgingly happy with Messenger.

(I just let out an audible “hrumpf” as I typed that last line.)

I’m not always a Facebook defender, but I am when they give more control of the “Facebook experience” to the users.

Facebook’s main goal is to be profitable. They must please investors and advertisers. While Facebook has one eye on the bottom line, the other eye is infinitely set on improving the end-user experience. Facebook has hundreds-of-millions of active users who expect to see updates from important friends, invitations to local events and the occasional promotion from a relevant company.

For this very reason, Facebook is forever tweaking the “News Feed” algorithm.

According to Jacob Frantz, product manager at Facebook, “News Feed is [the] personalized stream of stories that you build from the people [that you friend] and Pages [that you like].” The algorithm is the code behind the screen, the stuff you don’t see but that understands what you like based on your Facebook history and preferences.

More recently, Facebook revamped its News Feed preference controls, giving you tools to see even more of the content you want to see, when you want to see it. Of course, you’ve had control over most of this content for a long time, regardless of Facebook’s elaborate algorithm. You just didn’t know it, didn’t know how to change it, or didn’t care.

Now you have easier access.

For example, if you have Facebook friends who are merely occasional users (e.g., they only post once every few weeks), you can set your preferences to see their posts first.

Frantz says you’ll see a star in the upper right hand corner for these “top” posts.

You can update News Feed preferences under Settings.

The app is available for iOS (Apple) devices and will be available soon for Android and desktop users.

Dr. Adam Earnheardt is chairman of the department of communication at Youngstown State University. Follow him on Twitter at @adamearn.

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