Social media outlets like Facebook who have 2.96 billion daily users who can make various posts, from personal ruminations to business promotions. How these posts show up on our timelines often seems mysterious. Our feeds aren’t chronological, so what dictates the posts we see versus those we miss?
Social media and news aggregator AI algorithms control your news feed and are carefully calibrated to show you the posts or articles you are likely to engage with. The algorithms use our interactions with and reactions to posts to determine what lands higher on our news feeds.
This article explains what factors dictate a post’s relevance to a user. It also explains how to control the posts you see and how to take some control of your feed.
Do You Control Your Own News Feed?
Companies like Facebook, Twitter, Google, and Bing study user’s interactions with posts to determine what shows on their news feeds. While this may give the illusion that the user is in control, it is the AI algorithm that that humans created and directed that is in control.
In 2021 the Facebook whistleblower case showed us that the social network’s algorithm pushes destructive or angry content, to keep you reading and engaged with advertising for profit. With headlines like “Facebook Inciting Anger With AI News Feed Manipulation For Profit” is a scary fact.
AI algorithms placing incendiary information at the top of your news feed in order to get a reaction out of you is a dangerous business to sell advertising. Although the AI settings are controlled by their handlers, AI gives the ability to create thousands of nuances in what you are seeing.
Facebook knowingly produces News Feed displaying this sort of content designed to make people angry and is the root of much of what is going on in today’s unrest in society yet no one really understands what is happening.
Facebook previously used the EdgeRank algorithm to determine what populates your newsfeed. However, the social media giants have spent years developing their current AI machine learning news feed optimization methods.
What Determines Your News Feed?
What determines your news feed is money and profit. Human programmer’s also created the AI machine learning algorithms that run the news feeds and its directives. The humans at companies and publishers like Facebook knowingly are causing dissent and strife around the world for greater profit.
Various factors impact the content that shows up on your personal page with different social media and news outlets and how it ranks. However, the simplest part of the equation relies on views, likes, and comments. Posts with higher levels of engagement get broader distribution.
Facebook for instance also allows individuals to pay for exposure. If someone has a post they’re particularly proud of, they can pay a dollar daily to boost it, which spreads it to more news feeds regardless of engagement. The post also appears further up a feed than it would without payment. This means more promoted posts, often paid ads, and populate more news feeds.
Only 12 to 16 percent of friends or followers view unpromoted posts. Promotion significantly improves the reach of your posts, and you can track the real-time metrics of the people you reach.
While this may be advantageous to would-be influencers and taste-makers, the system manipulates user’s news feeds and takes control away.
Please see our article titled “Getting Off Of Social Media.”
The Default Facebook News Feed
Facebook AI algorithms use engagement, which is a metric that encompasses the number of views, shares, likes, and clicks, to determine which posts to push harder into people’s newsfeeds.
The system uses your previous likes and shares to determine what posts you will “like” or interact with.
Facebook’s AI algorithm uses several factors to score each post, assigning a cumulative score based on the analysis of over 10,000 signals. The scoring system is weighted, with some factors adding more to the score than others. Still, some factors negatively impact the score.
The same system is used globally and for over 100 languages. Actions that factor into the score include: the length of comments on a post; whether the post is a live or recorded video; whether the post is plain text; and whether it includes cartoon avatars, among many others.
Facebook wants you to engage with posts, so it prioritizes posts with higher engagement levels. Since the site instituted the emoji reactions in 2017, they’ve prioritized posts that inspire emoji reactions that represent love, laughter, tears, shock, or anger instead of thumbs-up emoji.
According to Meta, the company that runs Facebook, the algorithm uses four steps to determine your feed: Inventory, signals, predictions, and score.
Please see our other interesting articles on AI and news with Is “Google Personalized News Using AI To Create Bias?” and “Is Google News The Same For Everyone?”
The inventory is the amassed total of posts shared by your friends and the pages you follow and is the pool of content from which the Facebook algorithm chooses the posts to include in your feed. Different surfaces show different sorts of posts, so what you see with Facebook feed differs from Facebook Watch.
Facebook (FB) uses over 10,000 signals. Two obvious ones are who posted the story and when the content was posted.
They factor in information about the viewing environment, such as what time it is and how fast your internet connection is. The algorithm is privy to more information about you than you would think. And just like Google and other tech giants, Facebook doesn’t shy away from using the information they have about you to optimize your feed.
Above all else, FB wants you to engage with content. They use the collection of signals to predict how likely you are to engage with the given post.
The algorithm predicts things like:
- The probability of you commenting on the post.
- The odds of you reading an attached story.
- How likely you are to watch a video in its entirety.
- Whether you find the story informative.
Because engagement is king, you might see more things that infuriate you. Think of it as an “Any press is good press” policy, only it’s “any interaction is a good interaction” approach.
The algorithm uses the signals and predictions to compute a relevancy score, a number representing how interested they feel users will be in a given post.
They use the number to predict several things:
- The likelihood of it being clicked
- The likelihood that people will spend time with the content
- The likelihood of engagement (liking, commenting, or sharing)
- The likelihood the post is informative
- The likelihood that the post is clickbait
- The likelihood that a link is an unreliable or low-quality web page
This calculation is repeated constantly, which is why your feed may look different from minute to minute if you refresh.
Personal Relevance Score
While the algorithm assigns each post a generic score, it also scores each post based on how it expects a user to respond. The personal relevance score dictates how high a post lands in your feed. Four factors dictate this:
- Who posted it
- When they posted it
- Nature of the content
How To Take Control of Your Facebook Feed
Though Facebook defaults to controlling your feed, you can assume some control over what shows up in your feed. One tool you have at your disposal is your settings, and you can change them depending on how you’d prefer to see posts.
Below are some tweaks you can apply to your settings to control your feed.
Change Your Settings to Show the Most Recent Posts
Sorting your timeline chronologically is the easiest way to see the broadest range of FB posts from more of your actual friends. This populates your feed based on the publication date of posts and not engagement stats.
Changing your feed to “most recent” is an easy adjustment. Click “see more” in the left menu on your feed. Then click “most recent” to make your timeline chronological. This change is temporary; your feed will eventually revert to the standard Facebook algorithm. Check in regularly to keep your feed chronological.
Set Your Feed to Show Content From Your Favorite People
If chronology isn’t your biggest concern, you can curate your feed based on the people you want to hear from.
FB allows you to move people to an acquaintance list, which limits the posts you see from them. With these posts relegated to the back burner, your feed will focus more on the content you want to see from the users whose content you enjoy.
Restrict How Much You See From An Individual
This takes a little more time and care, but you can change the setting for what and how much you see from a user.
We all have that one friend who posts about everything, from major announcements to tiny decisions. And while we still love them, we don’t necessarily want to see all their posts.
To modify what posts you see from a given user:
- Click the arrow next to a status update.
- Click “hide” (this can be undone and won’t be seen by the user).
- Click “Change what updates you get from (user).”
This allows you to control what you see from the user and is basically a filter. If you have a friend who posts many game updates, you can filter those out.
Additionally, you can snooze a user, so you don’t see any of their posts for 30 days.
Companies like Facebook use AI algorithms with thousands of settings and nuances to get reactions from their users to keep them engaged in new feeds for advertising profit.
Companies like Facebook are prioritizing their own profit over public safety and putting people’s lives at risk
We only control our Facebook news feeds in theory. Our interactions and reactions give Facebook the information it needs to manage our timelines.
The site predicts which posts are most likely to elicit responses and moves them up our feeds. Still, with a little care, you can exert some control in shaping the information you see.
- Meta Earnings Presentation Q3 2022
- TechCrunch: Facebook Now Lets US Users Pay $7 To Promote Posts To The News Feeds Of More Friends
- Convince and Convert: 3 Ways to Fight Facebook’s Algorithm and Customize Your Feed
- Washington Post: Five points for anger, one for a ‘like’: How Facebook’s formula fostered rage and misinformation
- Facebook: How Facebook Distributes Content
- Hootsuite Blog: The Facebook Boost Post Button: How to Use it and Get Results
- Facebook: How do I see the most recent posts in my Feed on Facebook?
- Facebook: How to boost a post on Facebook
- The Media Needs to Keep You Angry. Don’t Feed Into It – Foundation for Economic Education