In a video announcement released by Facebook earlier this month, Mark Hull, Director of Product Management, opens by saying “People come to Facebook to connect with the people who matter to them.” The video goes on to explain that over the next year Facebook intends to implement a series of changes to alter the way we receive and interact with the content that comes across our newsfeeds.
My first reaction was that this would be some new marketing strategy to enable businesses, and maybe even individuals, to promote their content in a highly targeted and intensive way. However, it’s quite the opposite!
Rather, it appears that Facebook has done their homework and came to the same, glaring conclusions as the rest of society (whether we choose to fully acknowledge it yet or not). And that is we have become, for the most part, addicted to social media in a serious and life-changing way. At minimum, scrolling through Facebook and taking in everyone else’s highlight reel causes us to feel negative about our own lives. From there, it can quickly progress to people who weigh their entire self-worth by their social media engagements and suffer severe depression and anxiety as a result.
Social media is the drug of choice for many, and Facebook has taken responsibility for helping us rehab from this. While I see these changes as having real potential for positive change, it’s important that we, the users, understand the method for how things show up in our newsfeed so that we can (somewhat) take control of what we’re exposed to.
In light of the changes Facebook plans to implement over the coming year, here are 5 things we must learn to do differently to attain the best (and by that I mean healthiest) user experience.
Prioritize your person-to-person contact.
Sometimes I login to Facebook with the intent of seeing how my friends and family have spent their weekend and all of a sudden I’ve spent an hour watching “Tasty” videos of instructions for how to make casseroles and cheesecakes. Can you relate? Facebook has identified that most of us get sucked into viral videos and articles that have nothing to do with our personal community. While this content is fun temporarily, their research has proven that it’s harmful long-term.
This next step is going to be hard, but when scrolling through your newsfeed try to pay the most attention to your connections personal shares of photos and posts – a family selfie, photo album from a recent vacation or a call for advice on a topic. By scrolling to, and spending more time looking at this content, you will help Facebook better curate a more personal and meaningful newsfeed for you. The next step builds upon this further…
Engage with the content – if you like it, show it!
When you come to personally shared content that you enjoy, take the minimal extra effort to click the “like” button. It’s silly how challenging or awkward that feels for most of us. For example, my Facebook connections have grown quite a bit over the years from just my closest friends who I’ve spent years of my life getting to know, to people that are maybe one or two degrees removed from a friend and quite likely I’ve met them once in person, if at all.
I enjoy growing my network, but I don’t feel close enough to all my contacts to engage with their content. This shouldn’t hold me back! I’ve seen relationships grow through mainly Facebook interaction where you do start to feel like you know the other person. So long as you’re not crossing any major “stalking” boundaries, people will appreciate your likes and comments. I know I love seeing how people engage with my content, and we could all do a better job of reciprocating.
Why this is important for Facebook’s new changes is that the more you engage with your contacts, the more you will see these contacts show up in your newsfeed, and vice versa. Again back to curating your own newsfeed, you can help customize what you want to see more of by showing Facebook what you enjoy.
Put effort into your communication.
Facebook is now telling us that engaging with content through likes is good, but commenting is great. It takes maybe one whole second to react to post and throw a thumbs up or heart up there. But by taking the time to write a couple sentences in the comment section shows Facebook this is a genuine connection, someone who you feel comfortable engaging with on this level.
As a result, these interactions will be ranked higher than a mere post like. What hopefully will result is that people will be inspired to start a dialogue with one another, even if it’s through private messenger. This is way better than everyone posting photos of their “highlight reel” which, whether intentionally or unintentionally, can make people feel pretty bad about the reality of their own lives.
Don’t be a passive scroller – it’s for your own good!
All of this being said, you “passive scrollers” out there won’t be doing yourselves any favors by standing in a corner. You’ll need to jump in and engage your contacts if you want to have some control over whose content you see most often in your newsfeed.
Some of my newer friends to Facebook, who haven’t felt comfortable reaching out to request contacts beyond their own family, often complain that their newsfeed is filled with just one or two people who post “all the time.” The reality is, if you only have 30 Facebook friends and 5 of them post once or more per day, you’re going to feel like they are bombarding your newsfeed. If you really want more variety in your newsfeed, you need to grow your Facebook connections. You should still be careful with how you do this, but if you open up a bit, you’ll realize that friending a co-worker is not the same as giving them keys to your house. Be authentic in real life and on social media and you will have nothing to hide.
Login with a purpose and a time limit.
Here’s a novel idea. Get serious about limiting your exposure to social media. This is easier said than done, I know. I would likely be appalled by the number of hours I spent on Facebook that I don’t even account for.
Here’s my challenge to you, if you really want to reduce the negativity and anxiety of being dependent upon social media for entertainment. Establish a purpose for surfing Facebook and set a time limit. Your purpose doesn’t have to be “marketing my business” (and that’s a pet peeve of mine that will have to be a whole other blog series). It can still be completely social, but at least login knowing your purpose. For example, maybe you want to catch up with a friend you haven’t reached out in a while. Don’t just stalk their profile, send them a message or comment on their latest post! Or maybe you need some parenting advice or a recommendation for an HVAC company. Though still social, these purposes lead your mindset and your engagement on social media and keep you from getting lost down a Buzzfeed rabbit hole.
Through these changes, Facebook actually anticipates the time their users spend on the platform to decrease! However, they feel the time users do spend on Facebook will result in a healthier, more positive experience.
How do you feel about these changes to how Facebook shares, and favors, content? Do you think it will be an enhancement to user experience, a setback to businesses or a little of both?
Jump in the conversation!