A post made by Mark Zuckerberg on Jan. 11 announced that the Facebook News Feed will start prioritizing “meaningful social interactions” over posts by brands and media.
The head of News Feed, Adam Mosseri wrote,
“Because space in News Feed is limited, showing more posts from friends and family and updates that spark conversation means we’ll show less public content, including videos and other posts from publishers or businesses.”
This post comes out as another ripple in the water, from what first started in 2015 when Facebook announced that it would boost content from friends and family over content from Facebook pages and then in 2016 when it stated that it was “building a better news feed” for us, one that emphasized that “friends and family come first“.
While the real reason behind Zuckerberg’s statement remains unknown, guesses are, that the reason could be financial profit, his value for Facebook’s users, or because he is worried about the increment in fake news.
Most publications use Facebook to generate traffic on their news site but as The Verge’s Casey Newton tweeted:
I feel this is a great encouragement for publishers to focus on reporting real news content that will bring readers to them directly instead of focusing on generating traffic through Facebook.
The way I see it, Facebook regrets being in the news business and wants to do away with news on its feed altogether. It is a smart move made by the company with the long-term benefits in mind. They recognized the problem and eradicated it before it began to cost them money.
Why do we need news on Facebook at all?
Facebook’s News Feed algorithm is such that will never allow us to receive a diversified collection of news.
Those who get their daily measure of news from Facebook often tend to be misinformed, since it does not know how to separate news from fake propaganda. Unless and until Facebook allows us to pick our news stories organically, we will have ourselves exposed to propaganda, more so than ever.
Even now when Facebook is testing out a separate feed called ‘Explore‘, in Slovakia, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Bolivia, Guatemala, and Serbia, the amount of fake news continues to go up.
According to the New York Times, a false story spread on Facebook in Slovakia. It was about a Muslim man who supposedly thanked someone for returning his lost wallet by warning them about a planned terrorist attack. The story was so widely shared that the local police had to issue a statement rejecting it. Human nature will always be attracted to sensational news stories and when such stories are on Facebook, they are bound to be liked, shared and commented on, even before a fact check is run on them.
Putting it simply, to come to Facebook for news is like going to McDonald’s to get a low calory meal. The place just won’t serve your purpose and will end up dragging you to the opposite direction of what you want to receive.
I know there’s a big group of people who strongly prefer Twitter over Facebook and I am one of them. While we have our personal reasons that are possibly specific to only us, one reason that stands out is that Twitter is free from bullshit. You log-in and all you see is tweets and retweets from your friends with a minimal amount of sponsored advertisements. What you mostly see on Facebook, are adverts from websites you were on a while ago and you wonder how your search for that product ended up on your news feed.
Before Facebook became the social media giant it is today, it was merely a platform for people to connect with friends, share their photos and stories. What first started off as connecting people at Harvard, lead to connecting people from different universities and soon, people from all over the world. The foundation of Facebook was based on human sentiment and that alone made the number of users double and quadruple over time.
The simplicity of Facebook is what made it so popular then and I would love to have that simplicity back. If Facebook successfully goes through with these changes, that would mean that Facebook is going back to its roots. We won’t be swamped with advertisements as much and it would make the whole experience way more interactive than passive.
Nobody knows the real reason behind Zuckerberg’s decision but if it’s not one where only his financial interests are at heart, then it is something we can get behind.