Ask LH: How Can I Take Control Over The Content Facebook Shows Me?

Dear Lifehacker, I often see the same news story on my Facebook timeline from the sites that I like/follow (including yours). Sometimes they reappear two or three times over a period of 24 hours. Do you have any idea how it works or why it happens? Also, is there a way to make it stop? I use an iPhone with the standard Facebook app if that helps. #stopTheDejavu

Dear StopTheDejaVu,

Facebook is constantly changing its algorithms, with the end goal being the ability to serve the most relevant stories (whether from Pages or friends) to your News Feed. As Facebook explains it, the average user has around 1500 posts that could appear on their News Feed at any one time, with users with lots of friends or likes having anywhere up to 15,000. Instead of displaying all of them in chronological order, Facebook decides to pick and choose based on your actions which ones you're likely to want to see. Whether that is entirely successful or the best approach is debatable, regardless it's how Facebook has decided to do things.

I'll start with the reasons Facebook decides to show you what it shows you. The most obvious consideration, of course, is how often you interact with a page or a friend. If, for example, you like a lot of Lifehacker Australia's posts on Facebook, more of our posts will continue to come up on your feed. Facebook's algorithm also has a function where it will bring up stories you may not have seen that are getting high levels of engagement (likes, comments and shares), which could account for seeing the same stories multiple times a day.

As you are on an iPhone, seeing news articles in particular crop up on a more common basis could potentially be a result of Facebook's new Instant Articles format. Facebook's algorithms often go through experimental phases, and the prioritisation of Instant Articles could easily be one such experiment.

Asking Facebook to show you less of something without showing you nothing is a little more difficult than understanding how the algorithm works, however. Facebook recently added the 'See First' setting that allows you to prioritise certain friends and pages and literally see them first in your News Feed, though there is no 'see less'. If you see a post crop up enough times to be annoying, then you can always hide the post from the options menu in the top right corner. This will also tell Facebook that you are less interested in seeing stories like this.

In general, Facebook takes its cues from your actions. If you remember to like and comment the kind of content you like to see, and skip over the stuff you don't (resorting to unfollowing, hiding single posts or hiding all posts for more obnoxious types of content) Facebook will be able to bring up the stuff you like more often. Good luck!

Cheers Lifehacker

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    I experimented with the Show First option on some pages, but found that this meant some material stayed at the top of my feed for days after it had been read.

    There does seem to be a bug in Facebook's "hide this page" feature. There is a BBC page that I subscribe to that increasingly often shares a page for one of its shows that I detest. While Facebook ostensibly allows me to hide all content from that page, it still shows up with increasingly regularity in my feed (and I can see from comments of others that they share this frustration).
    I've now hidden that page about 6-7 times, with confirmation from Facebook each time. I've also hidden the parent post many times but that hasn't worked.

    Last edited 06/04/16 2:14 pm

    My experience with Facebook is not good. They just try to sell me every thing for which i talk or watch on Facebook. Too much customization is also harming the user experience and also a step toward minimizing it's freedom.

      I wish the ads were relevant to me. Most of them are bizarrely irrelevant to me - such as small businesses in another city or state that I would have no reason to use. I tried looking at the keywords that advertisers were using, and found that in every case they were not targetted e.g. these small businesses just asking for "australian" or "age 20-65"

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