Over the Christmas holiday I had something of a social media-related epiphany. With space and time to observe Facebook from a distance, it hit me just how overrun my newsfeed had become with irrelevant nonsense, and how many of the people and Pages I really wanted to hear from simply weren’t showing up at all.
For every intelligent, interesting or useful conversation or genuinely funny status update, there were 50 bits of inane rubbish from friends of friends and people I hardly knew. I started to question what the point is of investing time into a platform where you have little personal control over what appears in your own newsfeed.
A week ago I was so disillusioned that I was seriously, seriously considering ditching Facebook in favour of Google+. The one thing that stopped me switching was that there are some people I’m in touch with through Facebook and nowhere else.
And then I had a thought: what if there was a way of bypassing Facebook’s increasingly annoying algorithm and the newsfeed entirely?
The great news is that, as it turns out, there is. After a bit of lateral thinking I came up with something that’s extremely counter-intuitive as it involves removing pretty much everyone and everything from your newsfeed in order to actually see more of them. And it also takes time and thought to set up initially.
But within a matter of just hours of trying what I did think at the time was a last ditch attempt at making Facebook useful again, I was seeing the value I’d been missing. Facebook is now completely revitalised for me and a new place to spend time. I haven’t looked back since.
With a bit of effort you CAN beat Facebook at its own game. Here’s how…
STEP ONE: PREPARATION
What we’re going to do here is to strip out your newsfeed so that it ONLY shows you the people and things you highly value. You’ll still be able to see everyone and everything else, but you’ll access it via a click on the menu rather than in your newsfeed.
The first step is to sit down with a pen and paper and spend some time carving up ALL of the people and Pages you follow into lists. (Note: you can do this just with people if you wish.) Keep your lists fairly generic and limit their number to as few as makes sense (I’d suggest no more than half a dozen). This is important due to the way you’re going to use Facebook in future; you don’t want to have to be accessing many lists.
How you organise your other lists is up to you, but there are two that you MUST make.
The first is your ‘Value List’: the people you really, truly value for their insight or humour; the people whose status updates you look forward to; the people you’d really miss if you left Facebook. It’s important to be candid: no-one’s going to see this, so if your best friend posts too much nonsense and doesn’t make the cut, then don’t include them. Remember, you will still be able to see everyone’s updates, just not in the main newsfeed. Add to this list the Pages you follow that you definitely want to see a lot from.
If you’re honest, this list will probably be pretty short. And that’s a good thing as you’re trying to extract value from your Facebook connections. Mine, for example, contains only 17 of my 200 Facebook friends.
The second is your ‘Meh List’: people whose status updates you’re not bothered about seeing but don’t want to unfriend. Maybe they post too much. Maybe they post dross. Maybe they’re not that interesting. Maybe you’re just not that close (think ‘old school friends’). You’ll probably find that, if you’re truthful, this list is fairly long.
After trial and error, I opted for five lists in total:
- My Value List
- People I see often in real life (hence not necessarily needing to see their status updates)
- People I know professionally who I want to maintain friendly relationships with
- Pages not on my Value List that I’d like to see sometimes
- My Meh List
STEP TWO: ORGANISATION
You’re now going to transfer your paper plan into Facebook.
First, create and name the lists you’ve identified. Note that you do NOT need to create and name your Value and Meh Lists. This is because you’ll still view your Value List in the newsfeed and you won’t see the Meh List at all unless you actually visit those people’s profiles.
The quickest way to do this is to choose someone from each of those lists, visit their profile and click on ‘Add to another list’ in the Friends dropdown. You can then click on ‘+New List’.
Having done this, complete your created lists in Facebook. Visit each person on those lists and on their profile do two things. First, add them to the appropriate list within the Friends dropdown as above, and second, Unfollow them by unclicking the ‘Following’ button. This second action is very important as it cleans up your newsfeed to just the people and Pages you really value (identified in your Value List).
Next, visit each of the people in your Value List and add them as ‘Close Friends’, a pre-determined list in the dropdowns. Unless you want a Facebook notification every time they post something, make sure you unclick Get Notifications. DO NOT Unfollow them.
Now visit each of the people in your Meh List and simply Unfollow them. And finally, visit any Pages that aren’t in your Value List and Unfollow them too (you can add them to an Interest List of your choosing so that you can easily find them again).
STEP THREE: ACTION
You’ve now done all the hard work. The final step is to edit your Facebook ‘Favourites’ menu on the left hand side of your newsfeed.
Under the Friends section of the menu, click on the edit button of each of your created lists in turn and ‘Add to favourites’. Do the same under the Interests section if you created a list of Pages.
Once you’ve done this, click on the edit button on one of your lists under the Favourites menu and on ‘Rearrange’. Then just drag lists into the order you want (I recommend putting your lists directly under the newsfeed as they’re easy to find, especially on a mobile).
That’s it. You’ll probably want to tweak people over the next few days as you may have missed some or want to move them, and you need to remember to add new people and Pages to lists as you go, but essentially, you’re done.
NOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
When you use Facebook now, all that will appear in your newsfeed is updates from the people and Pages you have identified as truly valuable. So the newsfeed is still your first port of call. If you’ve been strict, you’ll be amazed how much more you see of these people and Pages as they’re no longer competing with all of the other stuff that was clogging your newsfeed.
What you’ll also do now though when you use Facebook is visit the lists you created to check in on others. And here’s the kicker: EVERYTHING from those people will appear in your lists as Facebook’s Edgerank algorithm doesn’t filter these. You can adjust the level of detail you see using the ‘Manage list/Choose update types’ function, which you can’t do in the newsfeed. But you’ll probably find, as I have, that after a week or so you visit these lists less as, if you’ve done your filtering well, all the valuable stuff should be in your newsfeed.
Using this method, you’re by and large side-stepping Edgerank and taking back control of your own profile from Facebook. You’re telling it what you want to see, rather than letting it show you what it guesses you want to see.
It’s early days for me using this method, and it will undoubtedly necessitate honing as I go, but I can honestly say that mass Unfollowing and using Lists instead has saved Facebook for me. It’s like an entirely new platform that I have complete control over, and I’d thoroughly recommend investing a couple of hours of your life to make this work for you.
Let me know what you think below. Will you be trying this? Any questions on the process?
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Posted by Paul Sutton