The latest hoax that the Facebook world soundly fell for was the idea that only 26 (or 25) friends could see your posts. In copy-paste messages that made rounds on the Newsfeed, Facebook users asked their friends to comment with a simple “hi” to show that the post had appeared in their feeds — demonstrating that they were one of the Chosen 26.
It’s pretty miraculous that this needed debunking, since many of the posts I saw, at least, had more than 26 individuals commenting on them. But it’s especially far-fetched if you know anything about how the Facebook algorithm works. As Mark Zuckerberg recently reiterated when he announced changes in the algorithm to favor posts from friends and family over brands and news outlets, the more people who interact with a post, the higher it will rank in the News Feed algorithm.
For the record, Snopes definitively debunked the “26 friends” rumor. And a Facebook representative told them that, as Snopes wrote, “the rumor held no water.”
But the need to seize control over and gain insight into the algorithm that governs the Facebook News Feed is understandable. The way the algorithm works is famously opaque, and always changing. And a simple scroll through my own News Feed reveals that it seems to work in mysterious ways. What Laws of News Feed are governing the fact that a high school acquaintance’s job update ranked above vacation photos from a close friend?
If diminishing responses to your posts, updates from near strangers, and irrelevant ads make you want to fling your fists at the Facebook heavens, fear not: there are ways to seize control of your News Feed from Facebook’s omnipotent clutches, and make your Facebook experience less annoying, at minimum.
That requires using the customization tools that Facebook provides. Which, it turns out, is actually kind of fun! (Throwback to MySpace Top 8, anyone?) So if you and your friends are still using Facebook, and you want it to get ~better~, here’s a guide on how to game the algorithm in order to make the News Feed work for you.
Who’s Out, And Who’s In
Ever wished for a way to tell Facebook that there are certain people whose updates you care about more than others? Since we’re all cliquey, hierarchical creatures, Facebook has a tool to do just that. It’s called the “Prioritize” feature. AKA “See First.”
The place to start is in your “News Feed Preferences.” Get to this page on desktop by clicking the downward facing arrow in the upper right hand corner, and scrolling down to “News Feed Preferences.” On mobile, you’ll want to head to “Settings,” which is at the bottom of the options after you click the Menu button on the bottom right corner of the Facebook app. Click “settings” within the Settings menu, and a screen will pop up that lets you navigate to “News Feed Preferences.”
Here, you’ll be able to “prioritize” friends, brands, and outlets alike “whose posts you don’t want to miss.” When you “prioritize” a friend or page, “you’ll always find them at the top of your News Feed,” according to Facebook.
This feature is also called “See First.” Another way to show Facebook a friend matters to you is to click on their profile, hover over the downward arrow next to the “Following” button which is in the lower right hand corner of their cover photo, and click the “See First” option.
Of course, the flip-side of the “prioritize” feature is “unfollow.” Here’s where you can say sayonara to that uncle whose political opinions you’d rather not know — but who you don’t want to unfriend.
My newsfeed is looking better already.
Lists: Still A Thing!
Another way to take back control of your News Feed is through lists. Facebook has had a “smart lists” feature for friends since 2011. Before embarking on this journey of customization, I only used lists to designate certain people as “limited profile” viewers (hi mom! sorry mom…). But there is oh so much more to the world of lists!
Welcome to the wide world of lists.
Facebook automatically populates “smart lists”: groups of friends who are also in networks you belong to, such as your university or work place. So if you’ve listed your workplace on Facebook, and you just want to see just what your coworkers are talking about, you can navigate in the sidebar to a News Feed of just your colleagues.
But there are also lists for “Family,” “Close Friends,” and “Acquaintances.” Using these lists, you can differentiate people like your best friend from that girl from junior year science class. And just like with the smart lists, you can toggle between News Feeds of from just your close friends, or just your acquaintances (if you’re bored, obvi).
To get to these lists on Desktop, click on the “Friends List” link under “Explore” in the sidebar, and you’ll see all the options — and can start building out your lists from there.
On mobile, click on the menu in the bottom right hand corner, and you’ll find a “Feeds” option, also under “Explore.” Your smart lists, as well as a “most recent” feed, will appear.
Another cool thing to do with lists which I almost never do is specify who you’re publishing to, when you send out a Facebook post. So if you’re feeling some type of way about a certain president, but you don’t want to publish those feelings to everyone you’ve ever meet, you have the option of sharing with just your “close friends.”
Maybe only send your deepest musings to those you most want to hear it, not to everyone you’ve ever known?
Hit the Snooze Button
You can always update your “News Feed Preferences” to prioritize or unfollow friends and pages. But if you know you just need a break, Ross from Friends style, (maybe a friend on vacation has become a little too photo-happy?), you can use the Facebook “snooze” feature.
Facebook rolled out Snooze in December 2017. When you “snooze” a friend, you will unfollow them for just 30 days, and they will be none the wiser. You can “unsnooze” them at any time. Or, at the end of the 30 day period, Facebook will notify you, and you’ll have the option to renew the snooze.
Get to “Snooze” on the profile of the friend you need some space from, or by clicking the three dots on the upper right hand corner of the post that pushes you over the edge.
When it comes to Newsfeed relevance and crowding, you too can be part of the solution. Happy prioritizing and friend ranking, you mean girls.