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Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Facebook News Feed Tips

Facebook frustrations have seemed to reach new heights lately. NPR's All Tech Considered did a story yesterday with tips on how to spot fake news, which spreads rapidly on social media and seems to add to the angst. But our general discontent can be reduced with the following settings for taming out-of-control news feeds (links go to Facebook's help page for instructions).

  1. Unfollow. You will no longer see that person's updates in your news feed but you can still view their profile and remain friends. What the unfollowed friend sees of your stuff remains unchanged, however. Added bonus: friends don't know you unfollowed them.
  2. Use news feed preferences. You can tell Facebook what people and pages you want prioritized in your news feed. You can also hide posts from a certain source (say, for example, whenever anyone shares a story from a specific dubious news site). If you want to prevent the echo chamber effect, prioritize legit sources that offer perspectives different than your own. 
  3. Set as restricted. Restricted friends only see your public profile. This is useful when you're friends with someone only to facilitate group or event invitations, or if you really don't want them seeing (and commenting) on any private content at all. But don't confuse  setting someone as restricted with blocking, the feature that unfriends the person and prevents all future contact via Facebook. 
  4. Limit your audience. Consider using inline audience selectors for individual posts, like marking some friends as "acquaintances" and then posting select items to just "friends except acquaintances" as the audience.
  5. Review tags. Turn on Timeline review to pre-approve tagged content before it appears on your Timeline. Unfortunately, Facebook does not have Timeline review for things people post directly to your Timeline, as opposed to tagged content. So the only option to curtail unwanted direct Timeline posts is to change your settings to prevent people from posting to your Timeline at all (just be sure to change it back to "friends" before your birthday, or you'll feel very unpopular).
  6. Use groups. Consider discussing things in subject-matter specific groups rather than posting to the potentially broad and disparate audience for your personal profile. Public groups are visible by anyone and can be joined by anyone. Closed groups appear in a Facebook search, but posts themselves are private and new members must be invited to join. Secret groups go a step further: they are also private but can't be found in a Facebook search at all.

With some of these settings, I've been able to restore my news feed to a healthy mix of current events, cat memes, and baby pictures. Of course, limiting your audience and moving some conversations to groups doesn't give free license to be unprofessional or unethical. I'll discuss ethics specifically in my next post.

Posted by Agnieszka McPeak on December 6, 2016 at 11:24 AM in Information and Technology, Web/Tech | Permalink


I recently -- in an effort to stir-up/unsettle/de-bubble my FB feed -- got rid of all the classifications, groups, priorities, restricts, etc., partly just to see what happened and party because I really wanted to try to un-do any bubble-creating past moves. It's been interesting . . .

Posted by: Rick Garnett | Dec 11, 2016 8:49:48 PM

"With some of these settings, I've been able to restore my news feed to a healthy mix of current events, cat memes, and baby pictures."

I don't know about you, but for myself I don't need or want facebook for current events. I was well aware of the fact that there was a controversy over the oil pipeline in ND, well before the 25th post on facebook about it.

What I didn't know was that my roommate from sophomore year in college just had a second baby. That's the kind of thing I want to see when I log in.

Posted by: brad | Dec 7, 2016 4:20:48 PM

I too have set up a "restricted" group. Thanks for this useful post!

Posted by: Ian Sirota | Dec 6, 2016 4:36:21 PM

It seems to me that my fellow Amerikans are so ignorant and incapable of rationally processing information that whether or not they are relying on real news or fake news is highly irrelevant.

While it is generally accepted that Trump showed himself to be racist, misogenistic, xenophobic, narcissistic and ignorant of law and economics, my compatriots voted for him anyway.

And while it is generally accepted that Hillary showed herself to be grossly negligent, corrupt and traitorous, my compatriots voted for her anyway.

How much more truth about those two would it have taken to change their minds?

Posted by: Jimbino | Dec 6, 2016 2:52:23 PM

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