You have visited your Facebook news channel lately? If not, they would forgive you, and also in good company. The experience is exaggerated, a cornucopia of photos of vaguely familiar acquaintances and incongruous sponsored and suggested posts. It is mixed and served by algorithms that Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen linked to all sorts of social evils. So how do you fix the news channel? Maybe you get the algorithm out altogether.
Or at least, if you’re Mark Zuckerberg, make it a more visible option. The CEO of Meta announced this morning that the Facebook app will add a new tab called Feeds, which promises to showcase the latest posts from friends, groups, and pages you follow. It was already possible to convene a reverse chronological view on the desktop by clicking More recent on the left panel or navigating to Menu and then Recent and favorite in the application. But placing it in front and in the center, keeping it a touch away and giving it a name of its own marks a change in the way Facebook presents itself to a world that is increasingly looking in other directions.
“One of the most requested features for Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss friends’ posts, ”Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post this morning. “So today we’re launching a Feeds tab where you can view posts from your friends, groups, pages and more separately in chronological order.”
The Feeds tab is part of a broader retrieval of algorithm-free zones on social media. Twitter reintroduced the radical concept of displaying tweets in the order in which they were sent in 2018. Meta itself has already gone down that path before, on Instagram, where it introduced chronological views of Trackings and Favorites in March.
But those who consider themselves starving for simpler moments may find that their new Sequential Feeds tab doesn’t offer much subsistence. Anyway, my experience with chronological Facebook for two weeks this spring reinforced the few people I know who still post there regularly. Brands are gaining strength, but is it who you’re looking to spend more time with? Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on how active your social circle on Facebook is these days and how many, for example, media you follow. (Facebook may be breaking with the news, but according to the top 20 posts at the top of my “Most Recent” feed Wednesday night, the feeling is not mutual.)
Fortunately, like on Instagram, you can add “Favorites” to the Feeds tab, highlighting the people and pages whose updates you really want to see. If they post something in the first place it’s still a problem, but at least you won’t have to travel that far to find them when they do. And while there are still ads on Feeds, thankfully there are no “Suggested for You” posts.
None of this means that Facebook has abandoned the idea of putting random content in front of your eyes! Far. In any case, the Feeds tab exists to free up space for the Home tab which is renamed, which will serve whatever algorithms deem appropriate. “This system takes into account thousands of signals to help reduce clutter and rank content in the order we believe you will find most valuable,” the company wrote in a press release announcing today’s changes. “We are investing in AI to deliver the best recommended content in this classified experience.”
Facebook says you’ll still see people you know on the Home tab, but it looks like it’s designed to prioritize random encounters that drive much of TikTok’s virality. Instagram is likely to be instructive here as well – the main view of the app has been overwhelmed with rollers and suggested posts. It’s a messy mess, with Followers and Favorites there for when you need a Marie Kondo cleaning moment.
Again, it’s not far from where the news channel is already. And while you can’t make Feeds your default view, you can at least pin it to the shortcut bar at the bottom (iOS) or top (Android) of the app when it’s available globally. week. It may not allow you to use Facebook more, but it should make the experience more enjoyable when you do.