In a post on Wired’s Gadget Lab, Mat Honen describes what happened when he clicked “Like” on literally everything he saw on Facebook for 48 hours. The results are interesting. I’ll share some of his observations, and a few of my thoughts.
Be sure to read the original post.
Highlights From The Article
- “My News Feed took on an entirely new character in a surprisingly short amount of time… there were no human beings in my feed anymore. It became about brands and messaging, rather than humans with messages.”
- “content mills rose to the top. Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post.”
- About the format many Pages use when posting: “It is a very specific form of Facebook messaging, designed to get you to interact. And if you take the bait, you’ll be shown it ad nauseam.”
- “It reminded me of what can go wrong in society, and why we now often talk at each other instead of to each other. We set up our political and social filter bubbles and they reinforce themselves”
- “While I expected that what I saw might change, what I never expected was the impact my behavior would have on my friends’ feeds … I heard from numerous people that my weirdo activity had been overrunning their feeds.”
- “By liking everything, I turned Facebook into a place where there was nothing I liked.”
Obviously, this is kind of a ridiculous experiment. If you give an algorithm random, garbage data, you are going to get random, garbage output. You might get the same results if you buy 1,000 random products on Amazon and then look at its recommendations. Nevertheless, this does remind us of a few things and gives us some things to think about:
- The News Feed algorithm is not under your control, even though your actions influence it. And everyone seems to agree that it is horrible at its job. Yet Facebook, for some reason, continues to force it on us.
- Facebook’s primary focus is increasing exposure of ads and paid content. This extreme experiment shows what Facebook does when you give it lots of data points – it finds a lot more paid content to show you! Brands win, not people. Under normal user activity, this is not so blatant and obvious. But it is definitely happening. Every data point you give Facebook is used by them to show you more advertising and sponsored content.
- By “Liking” things and interacting with posts, you nudge Facebook to show you more like it. So you create a feedback loop, where you aren’t exposed to content outside of a narrow band of things Facebook thinks you will like. You may be reinforcing your own biases, beliefs, or habits and not even realize it. Is this good?
- Interacting with Page content leads to more garbage. The marketers who are gaming the system by making posts that ask questions or polarize readers and spark reactions get pushed higher by the algorithm. Facebook thinks engagement (Like, Comment, Share) is a valid measure of quality, when in fact it’s often the opposite.
- By interacting with lots of public content, you are potentially spamming your friends’ feeds with posts about everything you do. This can be very annoying, and may lead to you being hidden by the people you actually care most about.
Here are a few suggestions as take-aways from this whole thing:
- Avoid clicking Like, Comment, or Share on public posts by Pages unless you really value the content. Do so sparingly. Just because you like something doesn’t mean you have to click Like.
- Don’t reward manipulative posting styles by interacting with them. You may see many posts using a format like this: “THIS SENTENCE SAYS SOMETHING CONTROVERSIAL! CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? WHAT DO YOU THINK? WHAT WOULD YOU DO?” These posts are “engagement-bait” and the only purpose is to incite a reaction and prompt engagement, which will make their content more visible to everyone. Do not reward this kind of manipulative content. Do not engage with it.
- Expose yourself to a variety of opinions. Don’t let Facebook’s skewed news feed algorithm only expose you to opinions that are in line with yours. You will be missing out on a lot.
- Use Social Fixer to hide content, tab posts, hide Recommended Pages, etc.
- Above all else, use Facebook sparingly. Consider how many of your thoughts are about “something I saw on Facebook” and whether its curated news Feed Algorithm should really have that much influence on you. Don’t let Facebook decide what is important for you to see.
Agree? Disagree? Voice your thoughts by commenting on this post on Facebook.