For the last month, I’ve been doing an experiment with my News Feed on Facebook; the goal was to make it a more personal place again, and less of the news-sharing site that it seems to be nowadays.
I’m not saying Facebook is not for sharing news, or interesting websites, or memes… after all, I’ve done that same thing for a long time. The problem is that at some point I got bored of seeing my News Feed filled with these impersonal stories and I ended up visiting Facebook way less than I used to. And when I did, I would incessantly scroll through my News Feed, looking for posts that shared something more personal (an idea, a feeling, a picture), but I found very few of these.
Ideally, Facebook should provide the following option: hide all external content, including content generated by accounts that I’m not following. This wouldn’t necessarily go against the company goal, “to help you connect with the people and things you care about the most“, but admittedly, advertisers and investors wouldn’t be so happy with an option that helps users see less content.
Facebook is well aware of this issue; this morning the company introduced new customization options to mitigate this, but it’s still not providing options to hide content as I described above.
So I thought: what would happen if I started manually hiding all those less-desirable posts? There is an option to “Hide all from X“, where X could be a website, a Facebook page or even another user; if used without paying attention, this option could leave my News Feed almost empty (for example, hiding all content from a friend, instead of only hiding all content from a website). However, when used carefully, that option enables a great level of content customization.
Some general exceptions I made: links to personal blogs (for obvious reasons), check-ins, and posts from private groups. The biggest issue with this approach is that it takes a lot of patience and time, besides taking the risk of missing out on proper content. It took me about a week to start noticing any changes, and surely, I missed interesting commentary on news, but the result after a month of doing this is a much more engaging News Feed.
As you can imagine, another big inconvenient of this experiment is that I’ll never finish hiding content. Fortunately, the number of sites we read on a daily basis is pretty limited (even more for those sites that we share), so it’s relatively easy to get to a comfortable situation in a matter of days.
And if any of this sounds crazy (it probably is!), there is no need to worry: Facebook also has a way of recovering the original News Feed preferences, so that I can be bombed again with videos of zebras on crosswalks, pictures with philosoraptor quotes and lists with 25 signs that I’m too old fashioned.