No Such Thing as Most Recent on Facebook

I know, I know, the people who actually read my blathering posts are seeing the word “Facebook” in the title and sighing inwardly if not audibly. But it’s one of those topics that bubbles to the surface rather frequently.

Today was because of a conversation amongst a group of photographers – of which I was a virtual fly on the wall. One stated that Facebook users are generally lazy. His feeling was that Facebook provides all these tools (interest lists, etc.) to pick and choose what people and pages they want to follow more closely. And they simply don’t bother.

I held back the urge to suggest otherwise. But the simple fact of the matter, in my opinion is, that it’s not laziness, it’s time and priorities. Only power users will ever take the time to go to that effort. The rest will try to stay in touch with friends and follow a few of their interests, but they have lives that stretch far beyond the walled gardens of Facebook. To suggest they should take time to learn all its intricacies is losing touch with reality. You have power users who just love Facebook and will take the time to learn every trick there is, like a big ever-changing puzzle. And you have people who have… we’ll call it a deeper purpose. It may be sharing their work with others or a sharing a hobby or charitable or political type cause. And for people in those latter groups, it’s easy to lose sight that for most people it’s a way to spend a few spare moments, not a mission.

For most users, they’ll take it as it is. They may wish for more, but they’re not going to make time for it. This, to me, is where Facebook is most failing users. It’s assuming that if people don’t go screaming into the night, all is well. But every time I see a page or person share a message explaining to people how to see all their posts, I see a chorus of confused voices who would like to but can’t figure it out and five minutes later that person will give up. And I often read people complain that they missed out on news from a friend. Heck, I know all the bells and whistles better than most and I still often find I’m months out of touch with the lives of some friends.

This conversation also reminded me how a year or so ago Facebook once again altered the news feed. At that time, many people shrieked and complained that they wanted their posts in chronological order, not the Facebook-determined top stories view that had appeared. Within a week of that roll-out, a drop down arrow appeared that read “Most Recent”

The message was that Facebook had “listened” to the complaints demanding a chronological view be brought back. The thing is it’s not true, and it’s not what many users think it is. I suspect if you were to ask the average Facebook user what they see when they choose “Most Recent” – they’d say it was chronologically the most recent things shared by the people and pages they follow. I don’t know whether Facebook was intentionally duplicitous when they put it in in place after the complaints of out of order posts, or whether they didn’t understand that’s what users were really saying they wanted. The complaints that I read at the time was that people were offended that Facebook was picking what/who was most important to them. And yet that’s still precisely what happens. The only difference between Top Stories and Most Recent is that it’s the same content sorted in two different orders. You might as well read it in Top Stories order to be honest. In either view, it is still edited to remove content that Facebook feels is not important to you.

I find that illusion of choice highly troublesome. It’s also why I’ve started taking other social networks out there a little more seriously. If Facebook would provide the real option of an unfiltered newsfeed, I’d be a happy camper. But I’m reaching the point of feeling as if I’ve committed too much time to a service that artificially chooses what to show us and then on the other hand offers us the option to pay to defeat their own artificial formulas. It reeks a bit too much of manipulating supply and demand by creating a fake need.

Don’t forget to sign the petition if you haven’t already!

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