It’s fairly common knowledge that Facebook uses a specific algorithm to determine which items show up on your news feed. Although us mere mortals outside of the site don’t know exactly how it all works, we do know that it has to do with a variety of factors, including word usage and how many people like or comment on the status. Caleb Garling, a writer from The Atlantic, tried out a little experiment where he posted a fake status but used words indicating that something big and important was happening.
Once Facebook picked up on phrases like “big news,” “so excited to begin” and “all of your support,” it began putting Caleb’s status at the top of his friends’ news feeds. As his friends continued to like and comment, Facebook showed the status to more and more people.
It’s an interesting set-up and makes a lot of logical sense. You’d much rather hear about someone’s big life change instead of what was for dinner, right? But coming from personal experience, Facebook’s algorithm has often been a disappointment to me. I’ve noticed that I see posts from the same exact people over and over again…usually those annoying people from high school ranting about how life sucks. Sometimes there’s a good variety of posts on my news feed, but other times it feels like I only have 10 Facebook friends. It can get frustrating.
I’d be curious to see what would happen if the site created some sort of personal algorithm for each user. Rather than tracking the phrases of what generally interests people, the site could track phrases related to statuses you tend to like or comment on. This would be a sort of personalization for the user and would also guarantee updates that interest the user. I imagine our social networking communities would become smaller and more tailored to what we care about. This would be a positive change for the user, but it would limit the global characteristics of a social networking site. To every positive, there will be a negative, but we have to determine if the change is worth it.