Remember when the most annoying thing about Facebook was "Like my status for a truth is"? I would give anything to go back to those days, and I'm sure I'm not the only one. Between the constant ads and the haphazardly curated trending news, sometimes it feels less like a social network and more like a social experiment. Thankfully, the company seems to have taken the not-so-subtle hints it's received over the last few years and is making a serious stride toward improving user experience. Facebook's News Feed update will reconnect us to our friends and family, and eliminate a lot of the clutter we've all come to despise.
As The New York Times explains, Facebook will now prioritize the content that your friends and family are sharing over content from publishers and brands. It won't happen overnight, but in the coming weeks, you'll start to see major changes to your News Feed. There will be fewer viral videos and fewer posts from media companies, and more of what you (in all likelihood) joined Facebook for: your friends' engagement announcements, career updates, and pictures of their pets.
According to a Facebook Newsroom post by Adam Mosseri, Head of News Feed, the company wants to get back to its roots of "connecting people to meaningful posts from their friends and family in News Feed." CEO Mark Zuckerberg further outlined the rationale for the decision in a Facebook post, where he reflected on the criticism the company has faced in recent years.
"Recently we've gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands, and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other," Zuckerberg wrote. "We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being."
To be clear, you'll still be able to receive some amount of news and information from Facebook. But now, the stories and pieces of content you'll see will be ones that were shared and commented on by your friends and family. Zuckerberg believes that this update will cause "the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement" to decrease, but that "the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable."
Facebook has been studying the effects that different social media interactions and experiences have on people. According to their research, when people use social media to connect with the important people in their lives, it can make them feel less lonely. However, passive scrolling through trending and viral content does not have the same positive effects. (Zuckerberg did not specify how this type of experience specifically affects us.)
This conscious decision to make Facebook a safer and more enjoyable place comes on the heels of a number of other measures taken by the company in recent months. In December, the company announced that they would be removing "Disputed Flags" from fake articles and instead begin suggesting articles with alternative viewpoints, as a less polarizing way to help people gather information and form opinions. The company also introduced a tool allowing users to block friend requests from trolls or people engaging in targeted harassment.
For those of us who have seen change after change to the News Feed, this may not seem like a big deal. But a lot has changed since 2004, and this is bigger than any other tweaks we've seen. Hopefully with these new efforts, Facebook can once again become a fun, safe place for everyone.
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