Don’t Be an Experiment: How to Control Your Facebook News Feed

Don’t want Facebook manipulating your emotions for science? Take control of which posts you do and don’t see.

Once upon a time, Facebook’s timeline worked how you’d expect. You could log on and see all the posts from your friends, in chronological order. That changed when Facebook switched from showing “All Posts” by default to showing only the “Top Posts” – something the company says is necessary because of the staggering number of friends many users have.

What determines what is and isn’t a top post? A number of factors, including how often you interact with a given person, the sorts of topics you’re interested in, how many likes or comments a particular post attracts, and – apparently – psychological experiments.

Wait, What? Experiments?

As most people know by now, Facebook manipulated top posts to conduct an experiment. From the abstract:

We show, via a massive (N = 689,003) experiment on Facebook, that emotional states can be transferred to others via emotional contagion, leading people to experience the same emotions without their awareness

Basically, Facebook intentionally showed some people happier posts than usual; others, sadder posts. They then kept track of whether people were more likely to post happy or sad things as a result. It turns out this works.

When positive expressions were reduced, people produced fewer positive posts and more negative posts; when negative expressions were reduced, the opposite pattern occurred.

Some may find this fascinating. Others find it disturbing. If you’re in the second camp, it’s time to take more control over what information you do and don’t see on Facebook.

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On The Desktop: View The “Most Recent” Posts

If you want to avoid being experimented on, don’t let Facebook filter your posts. The simplest way to do this is to view the “Most Recent” posts instead of the “Top Posts”. Doing this is easy enough:

facebook-most-recent

You’ll now see your most recent posts, along with a passive-aggressive prompt encouraging you to switch back to “Top Posts”.

facebook-most-recent-showing

Sadly, Facebook doesn’t offer a way to make this your default timeline – the “Top Posts” will show up again later. If you use a bookmark to access Facebook, you can go straight to the “Most Recent” posts using the following URL: http://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr

facebook-url-all-posts

Chrome users can go a step further, by installing the Force Facebook Most Recent extension. Users of other browsers, or Chrome users wanting even more power, should check out SocialFixer, which, in addition to letting you make “All Posts” the default, also lets you clean up your Facebook news feed by removing notifications for games and the like.

On Mobile: Use These Alternative Apps

Facebook’s mobile app does not let you set “Most Recent” as the default – you have to do a little digging to find it:

If you’d rather have this behaviour by default, you’re out of luck: Facebook stopped doing that. But you’re not without hope: alternative Facebook apps such as Friendcaster for Android and iPad give you the full news feed by default. Read up on alternative Android Facebook apps for more information.

Or, Just Stop Using Facebook

Of course, these are basically workarounds that avoid the most obvious solution: stop using Facebook. The company’s made it pretty clear they see their users as a commodity, and that’s not likely to change. This recent news is only the latest example of that.

So what’s the alternative? Well, these social networks might end up replacing Facebook, but it seems unlikely – and there’s no guarantee any of these will care anymore than Facebook does. Unless we all agree this is a problem, things will stay the same.

So, will things stay the same? Let’s talk about this.

Image Credits: Crazy professor Via Shutterstock

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