How I took back my Facebook News Feed, part 1 of 2



By: Surian Soosay

Alexis Ohanian, a Reddit co-founder, shared a sentiment about Facebook that fits my own experience: “Facebook makes me hate the people I know…” (This quote goes on about Reddit, but this is about Facebook.)

I actually know these people.
In most cases, my Facebook friends are actual friends and family that I’ve know for a long time and get along well with, face-to-face. But seeing the seemingly endless streams of political complaints, social rage and mind-numbing memes makes we want to *gasp* “unfriend” them for my own sanity, or just quit Facebook outright. But, the problem isn’t Facebook, necessarily, it’s our lack of filter online.

In person, when I know you don’t agree with my point-of-view about politics, I’ll save us both the frustration and just talk about something we do have in common. If a touchy subject comes up, I’ll be considerate and accommodating to your perspective while not pressing my own opinions too strongly. As George Constanza said, “You know we’re living in a society!”

But, it seems that, for some of us, the privacy of our keyboard is like a confessional of our deepest held misanthropy. No one seems to know what we know and everything would be better if the world would just see this stream of simple-minded phrases on emotionally charged images I saw on all my favorite pages. Share, share, share…

I decided not to quit Facebook, but I decided I was going to take back my Facebook News Feed.

This is Part 1 of 2 where I control my News Feed by categorizing my Friends into Friends Lists and controlling who I am Following.

First things first, what do the Facebook terms mean? Is a friend a “friend”? Is a like a “like”?

For friends, you can control three key settings:

  • Following
  • Friends Lists
  • Get Notifications

What does Following mean?

Following means you want to see the updates from your friend in your News Feed. Facebook doesn’t show you everything all of the time, though. It’s just a preference. You can tune this preference by grouping your friends.

Facebook Friend Following

What are Friends Lists?
For this, Facebook added some control for grouping your friendships: Friends, Close Friends and Acquaintances. There is also an additional group for Family, which can be a mix of relationships (Friends, Close Friends and Acquaintances). These all determine how likely your friends updates are to show up in your News Feed.

Facebook Friends Lists

When you “friend” someone on Facebook, you automatically follow them. This means that their posts will show up in your Facebook News Feed. When they update their status, share a photo, reshare a meme, this will all show up in your News Feed. If you have a lot of friends who update often, the stream can be like drinking from a firehose.

If you don’t want to see a persons updates, but you don’t want to “unfriend” them, you can uncheck the Following button on their profile.

It’s important, for your Facebook News Feed, to categorize your friendships well. Facebook is using algorithms to present you with updates from your giant list of “friends”. Who are your friends, close friends and acquaintances? Go through your list and set them appropriately. Have too many friends to consider doing this? Consider unfriending some, seriously.

If you are following a Friend, your Friends Lists determine how often their updates will appear in your News Feed. Here is a way to think about it:

  • Updates from Close Friends always show up in your News Feed.
  • Updates from Friends usually show up in your News Feed.
  • Updates from Acquaintances sometimes show up in your News Feed.

What is Get Notifications?
If you don’t want to miss an update, you can turn on Get Notifications. Then you will get a little red indicator on the globe icon (Notifications) about their updates.

Facebook Get Notifications

Click the friendship button and then select the Get Notifications option on the drop down.

Facebook Get Notifications

Family
There is also another list which is Family. You can manage this by suggesting a relationship with the person. They can approve the relationship and then you will both appear in each others Family list. You can mark Family as Close Friends or Acquaintances, if you like. You can also choose to be Following or not and turn on Get Notifications or not. The big difference is that they appear in your Friends List called Family.

Facebook News Feed list

Examples

Here is an example of a close friend. I am Following their updates, and I also have Get Notifications turned on.

Facebook Friends

Here is an example of a friend whom I do not follow (Yes, it’s you). We are friends, they can see my updates if they wish. I can see their updates by searching for their name. But whenever I view my News Feed in Facebook, their updates are not included; I have to seek out their updates.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.56.12 AM

Here is a person I have marked as an acquaintance (OK, honestly, this is you). If you are following an acquaintance, their updates will appear in your New Feed less often than your other friends. Major events will be more likely to appear in your New Feed, though. Again, I can still search out their updates and they can choose to view my updates.

Screen Shot 2014-03-27 at 10.55.37 AM

Affect on my New Feed
By going through my Friends and setting their Friends List, Following and Get Notifications settings, I have managed to cut down on the clutter in my New Feed that was keeping me from seeing the updates which are important to me. The updates of people who are really acquaintances, or people whom I’ve lost contact with, or frankly people who post updates I don’t care about (I can find the cat meme’s when I want them) are no longer in my News Feed. The people posting things I would like to see are now prominently presented in my News Feed. The updates from people, which I do not want to miss, are now flagged in my Notifications list so I will never miss them.

This has made an amazingly positive change on my Facebook experience. When I log in, I see updates from friends. Isn’t that the point?

You can now read How I took back my Facebook News Feed, part 2 of 2 about managing Pages in your Facebook News Feed.

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About Eric Holsinger

Eric Holsinger is a mobile app developer and hobbyist photographer. He lives near the coast in Southern Maine with with his wife and son.