How to Ditch the News Feed Algorithm and Take Back Facebook
Facebook is better if you completely ignore the News Feed.
As Facebook’s role in the downfall of American democracy, media, and discourse is fiercely debated, many people have suggested: Why not just delete Facebook?
The truth is that there are many reasons why someone might want to keep their Facebook: A decade of photos and memories, research for work, blog post promotion (hello), getting invited to parties, and, presumably, keeping up with friends who have not deleted their Facebooks. It is totally FINE to keep your Facebook, and there are ways to use the service without being dragged into “conversations” about gun control with your elementary school bully or confronted with constant targeted advertising.
The solution is to simply ignore the News Feed entirely.
Earlier this year, Mark Zuckerberg said that he worries that “passively” using Facebook is bad. It’s unclear whether Facebook has any idea about what uses of the platform are GOOD or BAD, but in my experience, it's much better to use Facebook with intent rather than as a time killer or a way to see what’s “goin’ on.”
For the last month or so, I have continued to use Facebook, but have generally stopped looking at my News Feed. My experience has generally been better for it. Here’s how I made the switch.
The algorithm sucks
It is important to internalize that the algorithm is bad, and attempts to make it better have, in my experience, only made it worse. After the Parkland shooting, posts on my news feed alternated between people I don’t know anymore fighting about guns and my college roommate’s 20 posts about his new job (Santana, congrats.)
The algorithm makes posts stay at the top of the feed for days on end, values engagement (which in my experience means posts in which people are arguing about politics), and surfaces news stories that you might click on but are probably just targeted directly at you using the sophisticated dossier that Facebook has compiled about your life. If you want to be an actual news consumer, ditch the News Feed and get an RSS feed and a couple news apps.
With Facebook freed from the burden of delivering the news to you, you can now use Facebook intentionally rather than passively. I check Facebook in the same way that I used to check message boards: For example, I’ve joined a group about my neighborhood, a group about electronics repair, a group about drones, several meme groups, and a group for finding apartments. Checking these groups is much more likely to surface something I actually feel like talking about or reading about than endlessly scrolling through my news feed.
There are really only a handful of people I actually care about interacting with on Facebook. It’s easy to set notifications so that I get pinged only when they post something, which is much less emotionally burdensome than using the news feed. “Checking Facebook,” then, means checking my notifications and deciding whether to interact with them, then closing Facebook.
This is not revolutionary advice, of course, but pretending the news feed doesn’t exist has worked for me. Now I have much more time to waste on Twitter.