We all know how it is…that little “Like” button is right there…just waiting to be clicked. Easily allowing us to send an acknowledgement to the poster that we saw their post – whether we agreed with it or not, whether we actually read it or not, whether we are saddened or overjoyed by the news, the photo, the link… it is just right there, so easy to click on that little “Like” then move on to the next thing.
But have we really given much thought to what that like means? Or what it does to what the Facebook algorithm allows us to see.
On September 1st, I started an unscientific Facebook experiment. I am both pleased and a bit surprised to say that in 7 short days, I have seen dramatic results. There are some really smart people who have written about the technical aspects of the Facebook algorithm and how it works. For now, I will leave those details to them. This was simply my own personal experiment to see if a change in my behavior could change what appeared in my timeline.
I stopped “liking” things. I made a decision to share only those things I was really moved by. I even kept my comments to a minimum. I went through the full list of pages I had “liked”. It shocked me to learn that there were 737 of them! (Have you looked at yours lately?) I took a hard look at each of those likes and unliked 537 of them. I now have that list down to 200 people/places/things/businesses that I actually LIKE. I kept the ones that are meaningful to me. I did the same with my Friends list. Because I have always been cautious about who I connect with, there were only a few that got the unfriend button.
My Facebook account is now composed solely of the people/place/things/businesses that I really care about and want to communicate with. All of the random likes because someone had asked me to, the likes to enter a contest, the likes because something random came across my timeline and it momentarily amused me, they were gone. Now my likes and friends were really Likes and Friends.
So what changed? I actually Like (yeah, I know you see what I did there…) my timeline again. I am seeing posts from friends I have not heard from in ages. There are very few ads or “buy my stuff” type posts in my timeline. The news and ads that are turning up in the right sidebar are actually things I might be interested in. The Suggested Posts, Sponsored Posts and People You May Know recommendations are actually relevant. I am no longer only getting the same people over and over in my feed.
Compared to my Facebook timeline a week ago, it is a dramatic difference! I was about to give up on Facebook because I was tired of the irrelevant content, the constant ads and the posts from the same people over and over and over (because I had liked a lot of their posts). Now I enjoy it. It is a good mix of people, topics and things I actually want to see. Is it perfect? Not by any means. Are there still changes I would like to see to what and when I see things? Yes, but it is much better than it was 7 days ago. Much Better!
What did this little experiment teach me? What lessons did I learn?
Can I alter the Facebook algorithm to “force” what I want to see in my feed? Yes and No. Yes, I can make a difference by being more selective, but, no, I can not completely control it. That’s ok, I’ll take the improvement.
It is a good reminder that it is MY responsibility to control my social media. I have to accept some of the “blame” and not place it all on a digital algorithm, if I am not seeing what I want to see. In this world where everyone with an internet connection or a cell phone can be a content creator and try to draw our attention, it is our responsibility to decide what we do or don’t want to see. That means being aware of how we “educate” the algorithm by what we like, comment on, share, and favorite and being deliberate in not only those choices, but in our privacy settings.
There was another interesting side effect to this experiment. I found myself being more aware of my interactions – likes, comments, shares, favorites not only on Facebook but on all my social media accounts. Forcing myself to be more vigilant actually changed my behavior on other social media platforms. My favorites, likes, follows, etc… became more authentic and sincere.
It has always been so easy to click Like, to ReTweet, to follow, to friend, to click the little heart on Instagram. But how often do we really stop and think about whether or not we really “Like” it or are we just acknowledging it? How often do we give it a click because we like the person, because we feel we should or out of a sense of obligation? Had you asked me before this experiment if I ever did that, I would have emphatically said NO. As I discovered during my experiment, Yeah, I did it…probably a lot. Making the decision to share something or comment on something takes more effort. It makes me really stop and consider my feelings about a post and have to compose something intelligent, witty, or at least coherent. It has also stopped me from “liking” things that I really don’t like – such as bad news from a friend or something I don’t really agree with. –
Side note – Hey Facebook – how about a “Support” button so we can show support without “liking” something.
Will I continue my experiment? Yes, for a while at least. I am curious to see if the results remain the same long term. Will you conduct your own? Are you ready to take back “control” of your social media?
In the meantime… Watch out Twitter and Instagram, I am coming for you next…