I've been a Facebook user for 12.5 years. Over that time Facebook has evolved from being a way to connect with family and friends scattered all over the world into a massive marketing tool designed to harvest the way we engage with out family, friends and community in order to sell more advertising. But a few weeks ago I decided to do something about that.
After last year's Cambridge Analytica scandal and a number of other breaches of trust, I was seriously considering deleting all my data and closing my account. The trouble is, there's no real alternative that would make it easy to keep in contact with the people and communities I engage with on Facebook. So, I decided to see if I could bring Facebook back to what it was - a people-focussed place.
Kill the groups
Over the years, I'd joined a number of Facebook groups depending on my interests at different times. My local area has several buy/swap/groups as I live near the border of several adding suburbs. And some friends had invited me into other groups from time to time. As a result, my feed was filled with messages from strangers about things I was only fleetingly interested in.
I had two options; leave the groups or unfollow them.
In most cases I decided to leave the groups although there were a couple that I wanted to stay a member of but didn't want every message to appear in my feed. So, I left a bunch of groups and unfollowed a small number. That made a huge difference.
As well as groups I had, over the years, followed a number of pages - mainly around my interests in running, fitness and a few sports. But there were also several news sites.
I unfollowed the vast majority of those sites as they either repeated each other or I'd simply stopped reading them.
Like leaving groups, that cleaned up my feed, making it mainly people-focussed.
If you prefer, you can also unfollow groups and pages through Facebook's preferences.
- From the browser-based version of Facebook, click the arrow adjacent to the Help button (the circle with a question mark) and choose News feed preferences.
- Click on Unfollow people and groups to hide their posts and click on the items in the list that you wish to unfollow.
What about the ads?
The biggest pain in my Facebook feed came from ads. How can I stop ads from appearing in my feed? It turned out that you cannot completely get rid of them but you can reduce their frequency significantly.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, every time I saw an ad, I took steps to remove it from my feed. Here's what I did.
- Whenever an ad appeared, I clicked the ellipsis in the top-right corner of the ad.
- I chose Hide ad from the menu that appeared.
- I chose the option to marl the ad as Irrelevant.
- On the next dialog box, I chose to hide all ads from that advertiser.
I've had to repeat that process dozens of times but now, I rarely see more than a couple of ads per day and there have been a few days when I've not seen a single ad.
Blocking shared content
From time to time, friends of mine share content from pages I don't follow. Often it's fine but occasionally I find that I have no desire to see anything further from that site. So, rather than unfollowing the friend I simply block content from those sites or pages.
Again, it's a matter of clicking the ellipsis on the content and choosing the appropriate options.
Things aren't 100% perfect. I do still see the odd ad but at nothing like the frequency I did before. And, by quitting a bunch of groups and pages, Facebook decided to bring back pages I'd followed but its algorithms had "hidden" as I rarely interacted with them. Once I culled those, I found my feed to be more focussed on people than other content.
I was giving my Facebook use a lot of thought and was spending far less time on it because it was getting to be less about people and more about ads and pages. But by making a concerted effort, of about half an hour a day for a week or so, to not just look at my feed but curate it, I now have a far more user friendly feed that's about the people I care about and not a bunch of strangers and products.