Wednesday, November 05, 2014

How unfollowing everyone in my Facebook feed improved my Facebook experience

A few weeks ago I got sick of everything in my Facebook feed. Everything was vanity. First I was only going to hide articles from other sites, because I decided I wanted Facebook for people news. Then I realized I was getting a lot of updates from people I didn't care about that much. So I went through all my friends and put them in groups, and unfriended a bunch of people I barely remembered. I felt sentimental about people I had met as a child and teenager though, so I kept most of my friends from my growing-up years, even though I have little in common with them (but I put them in a separate group).

But it wasn't enough! I was still getting stupid stuff in my news feed. So I unfollowed every last person in my news feed. Sometimes it was hard to unfollow someone, but I kept reminding myself that if I really wanted to know what someone was posting, I could always visit their individual page. As I started unfollowing people, friends I didn't even know were active on Facebook started popping up in my news feed (like my aunt!). I unfollowed everyone and soon I realized that my news feed could have an end. For good measure I unfollowed everything I had liked, and I unliked almost everything. It was such a relief.

Maybe completely breaking with Facebook would be good for me, but I like hearing little updates from my friends and family in our post-blogging social media world. Dividing my Facebook friends into groups was very helpful, because now I can choose who I want to hear from. If I only want to spend a few minutes on Facebook, I click the "family" friend group. If I'm bored I can explore the other groups, but I have to make a conscious decision to continue.

This method of sorting one's feeds has its pros and cons. I don't think anything is filtered this way, so I see everything any one person in the group posts, likes, or makes friends with. In some ways I like it better, because I can be sure that I'm not just in an echo chamber where I see what I like, and I can know that I'm not just seeing the most controversial posts.  But the ordering isn't based on when the post was made; if someone comments on a post it comes back to the top again. Redundancy of posts was one of the things I hated in my original feed, and I still have no way to fix this problem (although for my friends with blogs, I don't really read your feeds much anymore, I just read your blogs). I also wish that more of my Facebook friends would stop sharing pithy quotes and photos and start telling me more about how their day was or what they are thinking about.

But on the other hand, I've enjoyed reading articles my friends have posted in the past and using them as a starting point for discussion. The majority of the posts I read on Facebook are made by 3-4 people (if you post or share to Facebook more than once a day, you know who you are), and I don't feel like I am any closer to those people than the people who don't post much, but I might have more topics ready for conversation since you are on my mind more.

I don't think I'm done with Facebook experiments--some time I want to try commenting on everything in my feed, just because. And maybe there's a browser extension that can hide all the stupid "x is friends with y and likes z" I have in my feeds now.


Alexis said...

I've been thinking about this since you posted it, and I'm finally going to do it! Such an interesting idea.

Rachel Helps said...

I still really like it! I see less of the stuff people are getting into comment wars about and no friend posts are hidden from me (or supplanted by said comment wars). My main problem right now is that I have a few friends who aren't in my three top groups I like to check, so I might have to add them to a group they don't technically belong to. And I've also removed some people from my three top groups who I don't care about enough to read posts from them every day.