Facebook Is Fine: Just Hide The Noise

I love Facebook. There, I've said it. It's one of the very few "social" places I'd be genuinely sad to see gone from the internet. That's crazy, right? I mean, Facebook is just a personal data farm, isn't it?

This post originally appeared on Medium.

It's just a not-too-coy set of dopamine-optimised actions to trick you into dumping information about yourself into the magic Zucker Woodchipper? And do you know what comes out of the Zucker Woodchipper? Gold nuggets. Made of advertising. And then leprechauns dump those gold nuggets into political lobbying — ha ha!

I'm not denying any of this. It is an ad machine, in part. But that doesn't mean Facebook can't also provide value. (We're partially to blame for these ad machines — we've given them permission to exist by not wanting to pay for things… but that's another post.) Ad issues aside, there is the possibility that nobody else derives the same value from Facebook that I do. Fair enough.

But let me tell you why I like Facebook so much. It's very simple: Facebook keeps me connected to folks I care deeply about who aren't nearby. That's it. That's the core value Facebook provides me. It's one of my very few "emotive" online experiences. And it provides that experience daily and tangibly.

My newsfeed is almost all signal. This is, in part, because I am ruthless. If you are overtly negative (which is different than having opinions differing from my own), you get hidden. If I don't find value in your postings, you get hidden. If you're a high school friend I friended just to be nice, I hide. I hide unhesitatingly. I hide remorselessly. Hiding is your super power. Hiding is one of those few pure joys of the Internet through which — amidst the near-endless entropy of online content — you can take a stand, push back in a way that meaningfully affects the data you see. (Hiding from newsfeed, it should be noted, is different from unfriending — they'll never know.)

So, my feed is signal. Lots of signal. Lots of friends becoming parents. Getting engaged. Couples falling in love. Babies. Oh, god, the babies. (But I do like them so. If you don't like babies — hide!) Friends and acquaintances off on adventures. Beautiful mountain photos taken during weekend trail runs. Family outings. I keep track of the orphanage a good friend of mine runs in Nepal. I am able to see what my quirky Japanese "parents" are up to. I get updates on the dog back home on the east coast of the US. She is still cute, I can report. Yes, my Facebook feed is like a Facebook commercial. And, no. No other internet product, service or platform provides anything near this experience.

Perhaps most importantly, these folks I love get to keep tabs on me. There is a qualitative difference in meeting up with someone after six months to whom you're connected on Facebook (and actively watch) versus meeting up with someone to whom you're not connected. Call it creepy or what you will. But there's a lessening of perceived distance from that connection. Those six months don't feel quite as long. And you have a shared déjà vu of general knowledge of what's happened between you both. Artificial? I don't think so. It's part and parcel of the promise that social media brings to the table but rarely fulfils.

The more I use Facebook, the better it gets. And I find the quality of experience increases as I bring friends and family dear to my heart onto it. This is mostly because Facebook allows you to quietly prune as you go along. So if you find your Facebook newsfeed full of inanity, start hiding. It's easy. If you're friends with a loudmouth, shut 'em up. Simple. This isn't magic. Facebook made it easy to hide for a reason — they know they won't always get it right. One person can only read so many status updates in a single day. Make 'em good.

Facebook algorithms are far from perfect — but they're spectacular creatures when you consider the amount of raw data flowing through the system everyday. It takes a little effort to help them along, but if you ruthlessly prune, the signal-to-noise ratio shifts in your favour very quickly.

I love Facebook. Or, more accurately, I love the experiences it provides me. Complaining about its doom and demise won't make it — or the thing that follows it — better. The reality is we need algorithms to do a majority of heavy data lifting. But we also need to augment those algorithms with a little hand curation.

There's no complicated trick to making Facebook better: Just hide the noise.

Facebook is just fine [Medium]

Craig Mod is a MacDowell Writing Fellow, TechFellow, former product designer at Flipboard, and Japanophile. Follow him on Twitter @CraigMod.


    All I want is to hide Instagram and even though they give you the button for it, it doesn't work. I hate your hashtags.

    I like the experience of Facebook (ie. the social network side, not Facebook itself), but a number of their policies are quite moronic. For example I've had photos reported recently that are clearly within their guidelines, but I still worry that one of these days I'm going to cop a 30 day ban.

    I think The IT Crowd put it best:

    Moss: My mum's on Friendface! My mum! I've opened up another line of communication with her!
    Roy: Isn't that a good thing?
    Moss: She's listed her "current mood" as "sensual"!
    Roy: Why didn't you just not accept her friend request?
    Moss: What are you, an animal?

    There are some people you just can't get away from. But with that said, I've got a ton of people I'm hiding tonight. Mostly passive-aggressive "I LOVE WINE ARSEHOLES" someecard posts

    Hiding the noise was the easy part.
    Getting facebook to stop notifying me about games after I turned off showing games, that's hard.
    Realizing that you facebook is only showing me some of the posts my friends are posting, and showing different posts depending on if viewed on mobile or pc. That's annoying.
    Often being notified about a "new private message" up to 1 month after it was received or just never being notified, that's not fine.
    Never having a reply from support and nothing ever being fixed: Useless
    Facebook is only "fine" if you ignore the bugs and pretend it is fine.

    I complete agree that Facebook is an amazing tool. But at the same time, it's hard to determine who to hide because you never know - they might post the most fascinating post ever after you hide them.

    [non face book user] I guess when you meet up after 6 months, you don't have to talk for long - you can get on with browsing facebook.

    I check who has a birthday that week, and if they aren't someone I would say happy birthday to (in person, over the phone, or even on Facebook) they get deleted. I find it's a good way to weed out the people who aren't important/close on a regular basis.

    Why would you friend someone and then hide them?

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