The Facebook News Feed: How to (Sort of) Control What You See

The main purpose of Facebook is to keep up with what’s going on with your friends’ lives, so you’d think it would be pretty obvious that scrolling through your news feed would show you a list of what your friends are posting in the order that they’re posted. Since we’re talking about Facebook, though, it’s not quite that simple. 🙁 Even worse, the company likes to completely change the way the news feed works without warning or explanation, so this post explains what the current system, updated as of March 2017.

You can also find more about the “hows” of the news feed in the Facebook Help Center and about the “whys” in the Facebook media center.

NOTE: The information below applies to the full web browser version of Facebook, not the mobile web or mobile app versions.

When it comes to what you see in your feed (i.e. what is being posted by your friends and people/Pages you follow) there are a lot of options. None of them are ideal, in my opinion, but some are better than others, depending on what you want to see.

Top Stories

This is Facebook’s default setting, i.e. what you will see when you log into Facebook if you’ve never specifically made any changes anywhere. For me, it’s also pretty much the most annoying thing about the service, one that I’ve written/ranted about before. It has to do with the infamous Facebook “algorithm,” which just means the logic the system uses to decide what to show you.

Basically, Facebook uses a whole bunch of different factors to show you what they think you’re most going to want to see. What those factors are and how they’re weighted is a closely guarded company secret, but some of the factors are clearly whose posts you like, comment on and share the most; how many likes, comments and shares posts have received from other people; whether or not you’re a friend of those other people; the type of content posted; and trending topics posted across Facebook as a whole.

Unfortunately, for a lot of people (including me) the algorithm doesn’t work very well. You end up missing posts you would be very interested in or you keep seeing the same posts at the top of your feed after you’ve already read them. They’re also not in the order they were posted so you’ll see one post from three days ago, followed by another from 10 minutes ago, followed by one from yesterday, etc. which doesn’t make for a very natural experience.

There’s also a real vicious circle element to it. If you don’t see a post, you’re obviously not going to like or comment on it, which means you’re less likely to see similar posts in the future.

All in all, a pretty crappy system. 🙂 Fortunately, it’s easy enough to change to:

Most Recent

To see this version, click the down arrow beside News Feed in the left column and select Most Recent.

There are two important things to know about this view:

  • While the posts generally appear in reverse chronological order, if one of your friends likes or comments on a post, that can bump it back up to the top of the list.
  • You still won’t see every post from all your friends, groups, and Pages you follow because Facebook still curates your list. Perhaps more surprisingly, you may not even see posts that you can see in your Top Stories feed!

Once you’ve selected this view, it should stay this way as long as you remain logged into Facebook, even if you close your browser. However, you may find it occasionally reverts back but it’s usually pretty obvious when this happens because the posts are all out of order again.

NOTE: There’s a browser extension called F.B. Purity that gives you all sorts of options to customize your Facebook experience. For example, it adds a couple of options to the news feed dropdown list so you can get a feed of only posts from friends (i.e. no Pages or Groups) and a feed consisting solely of posts with photos your friends have uploaded. The extension is available for all major browsers.

Editing News Feed Preferences

You can regain a little more control of your news feed by clicking the Edit Preferences link in the feed dropdown menu. This brings up a menu that will let you identify people and pages that you want to prioritize as well as those you want to unfollow. The latter option is especially when you don’t want to unfriend someone but you don’t want to see their posts unless you go to their Timeline.

NOTE: You can also set preferences for people by rolling over their name anywhere it appears and then rolling over the Following button to choose the options you want.

Finally, if you click the down arrow on any post, you’ll have options to unfollow the poster altogether, people/Pages they’ve shared, or just that post itself (meaning it will be hidden from your feed and you won’t get any further notifications).

Lists

If there are specific people whose posts you don’t want to miss, you can add them to a list. Facebook provides some built-in lists, like Close Friends and Family and they also automatically create ones for your friends that worked at the same company or went to the same school, if you’ve all listed that in your profiles. But you can also create your own custom lists that have whatever groupings make sense to you.

  • Go to facebook.com/bookmarks/lists.
  • Click the Create List button.
  • Give your list a name.
  • To add friends, start typing and a dropdown box will appear with people whose first or last names begin with the letters you’ve typed.
  • Click the Create button.

You’ll now see a feed of all the activity by the people on your list.

NOTE: Unfortunately, when Facebook changed the left-hand column from Favorites to Shortcuts, they removed the ability to add direct links to lists there. Now you’ll find it buried under the Explore > See More menu, and you have to go to the page with all your lists and click from there, making this option a lot less useful.

Some other things to know about lists:

  • You can add individuals to lists by rolling over their name anywhere it appears (e.g. when they like or comment on a post) and then rolling over the Friends button.
  • When you first create the list, you don’t have the option of adding Pages to it. Once it’s created, though, you can use the Edit List option to add them (as well as add/remove people). Just select Pages from the dropdown list at the top left of the Edit box to see a list of all the Pages you follow.
  • Getting your posts to show up in Your friends’ news feeds

    If you’ve read the previous section, you can see why you have little control over which posts your friends will see in their news feeds. It really depends on how Facebook’s algorithm interprets your friends’ actions and uses that info to select content to show them. However, if you have specific friends who tell you that they don’t see your posts, you can point them to the section above, especially the part about editing news feed preferences.

    Other things you can try (with no guarantees that they’ll make much of a difference):

    • Like and comment on your own posts.
    • Like, comment on, and share posts by the friends you most want to see yours.
    • Tag people you think would most find them interesting.
    • Broaden your privacy settings to Friends of Friends (increasing the odds of getting more likes, comments, and shares.
    • Restrict your privacy settings to specific people or lists of your closest contacts.

    Do you have other tips about how to manage your Facebook news feeds? If so, please share them in the comments below.

    You may also be interested in:

    See More Posts from the Facebook Pages You Like

    How to (Sort of) Control Which Facebook Posts Show Up as Memories

    QuickTip: Change Who You’re Posting/Liking/Commenting As on Your Facebook Page

Elizabeth Kricfalusi

View Comments

  • I followed this advice, and it was great for a month, but suddenly all those annoying pages/groups that people share are re-appearing! SO SAD ?
    I may just delete the app and stick with FB Purity on my comp.

    • Hmmm... I wonder if FB changed your choices to hide certain posts to "Snooze for 30 days"?

  • I have been looking for a solution to a conundrum. I have a relative who relentlessly shares posts and links from a group on Facebook for lost and found pets. I blocked the group once, but every time he shares these posts and links, I still see them. And so I started blocking all posts from the various people posting these things that he shares. But no, that doesn't work either. One name I know I blocked before showed up again and when I clicked the drop-down to try blocking them again, the blocking option no longer appears. Normally, I would just unfollow a person to get rid of the glut of posts every day, but this is literally the only contact I have with this relative and I can't cut it off.

    Is there any way you know of to stop these posts from appearing without blocking my relative? These constant pictures of lost dogs in a particular state (nowhere near me) are outnumbering the posts I actually care about.

    • Hi Teri.

      I'm not sure how you're trying to block these posts, but the following *should* work:

      - On one of your relative's posts from that group, click the three dots at the top right of the post to get a dropdown menu.
      - Click "Hide All from [group name]". Note that you may need to click "More" to see this menu item.

      I hope that works for you.

      - Elizabeth

      • I am having the same problem. One of my friends shares endless pages, which clog up my newsfeed. Some have the option of “Hide All from (group name)”, but many don't have that option. Even when I click more, the option isn’t there. Any ideas? I don’t want to block her, but it’s driving me CRAZY!

        • I don't know why that option isn't there (note that you have to do this from a post on your newsfeed, but not from her profile page or the group page), but you can Unfollow your friend instead of blocking her. That will stop all her posts from appearing in your feed but you can still go to her profile page to see what she's posting.

          To unfollow her, go to her profile page and click the button that says Following and a dropdown menu will appear with the Unfollow option.

          I hope that helps.

          • Hi Elizabeth,

            Do you know a way I can see ALL posts from ALL friends and pages by most recent permanently, or even just having to adjust some settings only once per session? I have to constantly wrestle with this everyday when logging in (sometimes 10-15 minutes). After switching to "most recent" for viewing news feed, I type in the following URL: http://www.facebook.com/?sk=nf_all OR http://www.facebook.com/?sk=nf_all#. However, after going to those URLs, it usually switches back to (i guess) "Top Stories" where it's not in chronological order. I then have to start back switching the news feed to "most recent" again and going to the URLs. This is a never-ending cycle. Any help is greatly appreciated.

            Thanks

          • Hi Josh.

            Unfortunately this is one of the biggest complaints re. Facebook (other than, you know, giving everyone's data away...) and as far as I know there's no way to make Most Recent permanent.

  • Hi Elizabeth,

    Is there a way to see all my friends' most recent posts before groups? The groups I'm in take up my newsfeed so I have no idea what's going on with my friends because I don't want to scroll for five minutes.

    Thanks!

    • Hi Adrienne.

      Unfortunately, there's no way to guarantee you'll see your friends' posts before groups, but here are a couple of things you can do that might work better for you than your current situation.

      - Go to your various Groups pages and click the button that says Joined, then click Unfollow Group. This will take it out of your news feed altogether so to see their posts, you'll need to go to their pages separately. You can add a group to your Shortcuts in the left column to make that easier or you can still have the group notify you, which will let you know when there are new posts you might want to see.

      - Click the down arrow at the top right of the screen. Click News Feed Preferences. A box will come up that lets you prioritize whose posts you want to see, so theoretically they should come up at the top of your feed before groups. However, note that this only seems to work if you've got your news feed set to Top Stories instead of Most Recent. There's a limit of 30 people or pages that you can choose to See First.

      These are not ideal solutions, but I haven't found any better solution yet.

      - Elizabeth

  • Thanks for your post. As far as I can tell, the "news feed" option is only available on your own home page. I have several pages that I subscribe to, and since I never see all the posts from those pages in my feed, I often go directly to the page to see posts there.

    Unfortunately, despite having set my new feed to most recent, when I go to any other page but my own, it randomly orders the posts (I'm sure it's not random based on some FB algorithm, but it sure seems random to me...)

    Any solution for that?

    • Oh my gosh, this is *so* annoying! I'm not sure when they started doing this but I've only noticed it fairly recently. What they're doing is putting "Posts You Haven't Seen" above more recent ones, and even if you scroll past those, there are still gaps in the feed unless you click Show More Recent Posts. It's another example of Facebook thinking they know what you want better than you do.

      Fortunately, there's actually a simple solution to this -- refresh the page and it will re-sort all the posts by reverse chronology. Note that while this works now, I can't guarantee it won't change again at some point.

      I hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

  • My Facebook reach went down to very low. Earlier I was getting good engagement but now it decreased by 50%. I am fed up with Facebook's new update. Could you please explain the way by which I can get it back as I was previously??

    • Unfortunately, it seems like the only way to increase engagement now is to pay for boosted posts and ads.

  • Hi Elizabeth :)
    I've searched high and low all over the place & cannot seem to figure out if there's a way to stop my recent activity from going to my friends' newsfeeds? I HATE that they can see every little thing I comment on or like in my groups...it makes me want to stop commenting on anything at all & I know that doesn't help with my groups. I'm thrilled they finally killed the ticker because that made me feel completely invaded, but it's still frustrating for all of my activity to just be blasted to all my friends.
    Do you know of any way at all to fix it?
    Thanks :)

    • Hi Clarissa.

      Unfortunately, there's no way for you to control that. Only your friends can control what they see in their news feeds and even then, they're very limited. The only thing I can say is that your friends are probably only seeing some of the things you like and comment on -- not everything. Small comfort, I know... :(

      - Elizabeth

  • doesn't anybody know someone INSIDE FB that can explain why News Feed quit working? jillions of tricks and tweeks later - and i still have next to zilch coming thru my news feed. FB seems broken and apparently they don't care.

    • suddenly, my groups started to appear again in my feed. (the issue was both on my PC and iphone, and both are suddenly fixed). it seems my "liked' pages still aren't popping in the feed, but i'm hopeful?

        • maybe they're working on it? i got this message from facebook help center today (two weeks after i messaged them...). it's a generic message, but at least it's something?

          We received your report and appreciate your patience as we work to fix technical problems on Facebook. Though we can't update everyone who submits a report, we're using your feedback to improve the Facebook experience for everyone.
          As we work to fix the problem with your News Feed, we hope these articles may provide additional assistance:
          To view and adjust your News Feed settings
          To learn how News Feed decides which stories to show
          To troubleshoot if your News Feed is blank
          To contact us about non-technical issues, please visit the Help Center.

          • I wouldn't count on them working on it, unfortunately. One thing about FB is that they test a lot of things live, so you never know if what you consider a bug is intended or not. It's very frustrating.

  • I seem to be having a different kind of newsfeed problem I wonder if you could help with. The posts from my groups have suddenly disappeared from my newsfeed, with the exception of occasional posts from friends when they post in mutual groups. However, I still get notifications about some posts in those groups that fb has determined will be of interest to me. Any idea idea how to fix this? Thanks

    • Hi Karen.

      If it was working before but not now, I'm not sure what would have caused the change. But you do need to make sure that you have the groups set to Follow for the ones you want to see in your news feed. To do that, go to the group's page and click the button that says Joined. You'll get a dropdown menu that lets you follow/unfollow the group. If it looks like you're already following it, I would unfollow and then refollow it to reset it if there was some kind of temporary glitch.

      I hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

      • i'm having the exact same problem, for the past week or two. none of my groups of pages that i've liked/followed for years will show up in my newsfeed. i'm hoping it's a glitch and it's fixed soon. it happens on my PC as well as my iphone.

        • Hi Heather.

          I'm not sure why this is happening. I know that Facebook was making a point of prioritizing posts from friends over brands at one point, but that hasn't stopped me from getting posts in my news feed from pages and groups if I've made a point of following them.

          With Pages, you can go to Settings > News Feed Preferences and select which ones you want to see first, so you can try that as well.

          - Elizabeth

          • thanks. ultimately, i did exactly what you said, but they limit you to how many you can "see first" (and it's less than 30 that i've read online). i am finding a random post here and there from a group, and it's always "sponsored", so i guess it's facebook's way of getting money out of group moderators or something??
            i'm hoping they fix it soon.

  • Over the past two to three months, FB never refreshes my newsfeed with "most recent" even though I always select that option. If I go to refresh the page to update it, it goes right back to "top storied" so then I have to re-refresh it by going the the newsfeed option on the right and clicking on (yet again) the "most recent" option. It used to revert to that option once in a while but now it always does. It's frustrating. And there is no option to see most recent on my iphone. It refreshes once in the morning, and that's pretty much it all day long. If I go to FB after several hours, it opens to the same stories it did earlier. You'd think it would update something, right? FB is more and more frustrating.

    • Hi Susan.

      I've found this as well and agree that it is very frustrating. What I'm doing now is bookmarking the URL to the feed that uses the Most Recent sort order, which is https://www.facebook.com/?sk=h_chr. But it's still ridiculous that they don't let us choose how we want to see updates.

      What kind of phone do you have -- iOS or Android? In both cases, there should be a setting to see the Most Recent order, although it's buried, especially for the iOS app.

      For Android, go to Settings and scroll down to Feeds and there's an option for Most Recent. For iOS, go to Settings > Explore > Feeds > Most Recent. You may need to click a More link to see the Feeds item.

      - Elizabeth

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