Get Your Facebook Friends Back

Has your facebook feed become a never-ending stream of sponsored content? Are the posts by your friends and family the minority of what you see? Here are a couple tricks to get them back.

The "Filter Bubble" Effect

Eli Pariser gave a great TED talk back in May 2011 about this. The basic concept is that the algorithms that google and facebook use to determine what content is 'right' for you can become a trap. If you mostly click on liberal links, then you see more stuff with a liberal bent in your search results and in your stream of friend's posts.

I noticed it awhile ago myself. Over the years of being on facebook, I'd "liked" several hundred things. TV shows, bands, political and social causes, even random stuff that I didn't even care about. Friends would post up 'like this and I can win ______' and I'd do it to help them out. My feed had become completely filled with posts by these entities. I wanted to get away from that, and to see my friends again. 

After a few hours worth of work the other day, I actually managed to make this happen. My feed is nothing but posts from people I know.

How Did I Do It?

That part was actually really, really easy.

Just unlike everything!

Here's how you do that:

View your own profile and choose "Edit Info" then choose "Edit Sections." Make sure to display every section that you think you've liked things in.

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After you've shown all the sections, you need to go to each one and remove your like for them. That's pretty simple, but it's very, very tedious.

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That's pretty much all there is to it. Like I said, if you have a ton of things that you've liked, then you're probably going to be doing this for hours. I couldn't find any apps that would do it automatically, I have the feeling that might be frowned upon by facebook, anyway.

One thing that got me is that there were a bunch of 'hidden' likes that I couldn't find. Part of this was that after going through everything in the 'likes' section, I went to the other sections like movies, tv, and bands, but didn't see anything set in the default view. You have to actually click on the "Likes {n}" and then you can repeat the process and unlike everything.

You may not be able to unlike everything. Some stuff sticks around, but you can't see it. As far as I can tell, this is because the references to items you've liked are still counted, even if the original item has been removed. It seems like if you just get rid of all the ones you can see, then it will work for you.

But Wait - There's More!

After taking the steps above, you should be seeing almost nothing but posts by your friends. It's like a breath of fresh air. Getting back to why most people joined facebook in the first place. It's about connecting with your friends, not getting content stuffed down your throat by a bunch of companies.

Unfortunately, facebook's algorithms for what to show you aren't limited to just page posts vs friend posts. Unlike twitter, which shows you every single post from every person you follow, facebook only shows you the 'important' stuff. You can change this a bit by choosing what to display from each poster, but the fact is that they still won't show you everything. 

And now with their latest update, they start bringing posts they think you should care about to the top of your feed multiple times, hours after you've already seen them. Of course, you could reply to a thread and want to see all the replies to it, but after 10 or so replies without you contributing a post, it no longer shows you alerts. So if you are away from a hot debate for an hour, you might not even know that there's a huge thread of new posts.

There is actually a way that you can get around this, at least somewhat. By using facebook lists, you can see every single action of a group of friends that you define. Every post, every thing they like, every song they listen to on Rdio...

I won't go into how to set these up, there's a post over on Mashable that says it all far better than I could. But by setting these up, you can see what you've been missing. Of course, if you forget to check them, they're not much good. But it's another good way to actually see content from the people you care about instead of arbitrary pages that you don't really care about.

Conclusion

It is possible to get rid of a lot of the crap in your facebook timeline. It takes some patience and a lot of clicking, but with some perseverance you can get it done. 

I found that after I had cleaned things out, my mood improved a lot when I was on the site. Of course, your results might vary, but I think that a lot of us have things showing up in our feeds that are trying to whip us up into a frenzy. They want to make you angry and outraged, so that you spread the content for them. I found myself ranting and raving over things I can't do anything about, probably annoying a lot of my friends. There's a lot less of that now.

There's a possibility that I'll be paying attention less, and I'll stop getting a lot of information about what's going on in the world because of this. I think I'm OK with that. It's more important that I feel happy and fulfilled.

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