Like diversity? Facebook will let you have it, but not keep it

Yesterday I wrote about an annoyance I have with Facebook’s web user interface. In a nutshell, I personally prefer to regularly view in my news feed the latest items from ALL the people, groups, and pages I’ve friended or liked in Facebook — not just the select few which Facebook has noticed I already interact with most frequently.

Why? I prefer diversity. I’m a fairly casual Facebook user, but I do use it as a way to connect with people, organizations, and communities for whom Facebook is really the best way to keep up with them. This includes many community groups, people whose social/professional circles really don’t overlap with mine otherwise, and even people/orgs with whom I disagree.

This is because, as I’ve written before (and so has Ethan Zuckerman), I think too much homophily is a problem — not just online, but in life.

But so far, Facebook seems to want to give me no choice but homophily — at least, they won’t respect my preference on an ongoing basis.

Here’s what I mean, based on what Vadim Lavrusik of Facebook told me this morning….

To recap, when you log into Facebook, the main feature on the home page is the News Feed — a running column of recent status updates and other items/activities from the people, pages, and groups you’ve chosen to connect with on Facebook. Items appear in reverse chronological order, with the newest on top.

There are two settings for your Facebook News Feed:

  • Top News, which shows only items from the FB connections with whom you interact most. (I personally find this title slightly misleading.)
  • Most Recent, which display all recent items from all your Facebook connections.

“Top News” currently is the default setting for all Facebook users. An individual user can select “Most Recent” as an option. If you just do this by clicking “Most Recent,” that view will remain temporarily (maybe just until you refresh the page, close the browser tab, or log out, I’m not sure which — but it does revert pretty quickly).

As I showed yesterday in this video tutorial, Facebook appears to offer a way to make this News Feed choice more persistent, by changing what appears to be some kind of account setting.

But appearances can be deceiving.

Today, I turned on my computer, and eventually brought up Facebook. I was surprised to find that, despite changing the setting I showed in my tutorial, my news feed had reverted to “Top News.”

Effectively, I can tell Facebook, “show me the diversity I’ve deliberately cultivated here” — but their response is, “OK, for just a little while, but we don’t seriously think that’s what you really want so we’ll switch you back later when you’re not looking.”

I reached out via Twitter to the person who handles Facebook outreach to journalists, Vadim Lavrusik. He shed a little light on the situation — although, frankly, not a very good light. Admittedly, We both pushed each other’s buttons a bit — but I bea him no personal or ongoing ill will.

THE BOTTOM LINE, FOR NOW:

Currently there is no way for a Facebook user to set a persistent preference to see their full news feed (“Most Recent”). According to Lavrusik, Facebook is “considering making the selection sticky.”

Lavrusik claimed the “Most Recent” setting reverts when Facebook users log out. That was not my experience. Last night, before I went to bed, I closed my browser tab with Facebook and let my laptop go to sleep. I did not log out of Facebook or clear my browser cache. This morning, my Facebook News Feed had reverted to “Top News.”

I will update this story as it progresses.

Full background and my exchange with Lavrusik so far:


2 thoughts on Like diversity? Facebook will let you have it, but not keep it

  1. You could always buy an iPad and Friendly, they have a persistent switch for top news or most recent… Personally, I don’t mind the one click it takes to change it on browser FB. I look on Top News as a nice selection of clips, but recent news is where the true lifestream is.

  2. Amy, I’m SO glad you got into this subject with a FB person and also brought it to light here. This “feature” of FB is likewise driving me crazy and for the same reason as yourself. I want to easily scan across the full body of people I’m connected to, routinely, and as you point out, no amount of diddling with settings keeps the door open to that wide-field view. FB: LISTEN TO YOUR USERS. I don’t want this forced-association pond I’m stuck in, much as I love those I talk with frequently, that’s not what I’m using FB for.

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