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

  • From yesterday there seems to be an automatic 'top comments' filter on my FB newsfeed posts. This only seems to affect 'third party' posts (i.e. posts not made by me or my friends) such as newspapers. 'Top' seems to be defined as 1. Posts I have commented on (before this change happened) 2. Any of my friends' comments if they have commented on the post in question. 3. Images of emojis 4. Comments that feature links to other FB users. On a laptop I can click and select 'Top unfiltered' - though this is a pain at least I can do it and this brings in the remaining comments. But on my FB iPhone app there doesn't seem to be an option to select/deselect this now default filter. In other words when looking at newspaper articles on my phone I can't see the comments - just emojis, random links made by people I don't know to other people I don't know, or simply no comments at all. And I'm the number that have been made is clearly visible just I can't see them. This randomly changed yesterday evening for no explicable reason. It completely dumbs down the FB experience on my phone. Is there definitely no solution for this? I can't seem to find one.

    • Hi Ingrid.

      Sorry for the delay in replying. Are you still having this issue. I've just looked at the FB app on my iPhone and I can see all the comments on a newspaper's post, but they're not in chronological order and I have to keep scrolling for more comments to load.

      I'm looking at the version history for the FB app and there was an update released on June 2, so maybe that's what caused the issue for you. There have been four more updates since then (!), currently at version 99. If you're still having the problem and haven't updated the app since then, try doing that to see if you can now see all the comments.

      - Elizabeth

  • I used to be able to sort posts in groups that I belong to, into chronological order, by searching * within the group. In no longer able to sort this way. Any help?

    • Hi Amanda. I've never heard of that functionality before. Maybe Facebook was testing it and decided not to keep it. Otherwise, I don't know of any way to prevent group posts that have new comments from being bumped back up to the top of the feed. - Elizabeth

  • I am not sure that these instructions will resolve my problem. I do not want to unfriend anyone. I just want to see what they post or share, not everything they "like" or comment on.

    • Hi Adriana.

      Unfortunately, you can't do this in Facebook itself. Your best bet is to try the FB Purity add-on mentioned in the post.

      - Elizabeth

  • Thank you for amazing tricks to control what I see on feeds, Now I can erase those things out which disturb me always when I open facebook,
    But can you tell why sometimes I see the post which has no connection with me, not even they are sponsored post but all though some on my feed?

    • Hi Sunirmal. Unfortunately, the Facebook algorithm is still fundamentally a mystery, so random things will show up with no apparent rhyme or reason. - Elizabeth

  • The latest algorithms of Facebook a little disturbing to me, some of the same stuff always appears in my timeline.
    I will try to follow the tutorial from you, hopefully some unnecessary posts will never appear again in my timeline.
    Thank you Elizabeth for your great article.

  • I'm just trying to NOT see what everyone "likes"... I just want to see their posts and maybe comments. Seeing likes and reactions just clutters everything. What a dumb idea. Is there anyway I can accomplish this?

    • Hi J.

      Unfortunately, there's no way to change Facebook's own settings like that. There is a browser extension called FB Purity that does give you that kind of control.

      http://www.fbpurity.com/

      - Elizabeth

  • Is there a way to stop some or all of my posts from showing up in a particular friend's feed without unfriending or blocking that person?

  • Sometimes I comment under a Political article under something like The New Yorker. Is there a way that I can stop my comment from showing in my feed so that all my friends see?

    • Hi Debbie.

      Unfortunately, no. Facebook doesn't provide any way to control where your comments are seen.

      - Elizabeth

  • For past few weeks Ive noticed when I "bump" up my posting on a buy and sell group it doesnt show up on my ipad but does on my samsung phone! Why is that? This problem has just been happening.

    • Hi Chris.

      I'm not sure what you mean by "bump up my posting." But I can say in general that the Facebook apps for Android and iOS devices often have some differences in functionality. One thing to do is check to see if you have the most recent update for both of them to see if that fixes the problem. But again, even if you do have the most recent, they may not work exactly the same way.

      - Elizabeth

  • Can you please answer this question. Can my friends see posts I have made comments about or only posts I have liked? If my friend's have a setting "friends" as opposed to "friends of friends" does that make a difference in what my own friend's see?

    • Hi Lisa.

      If your friend has their privacy settings set to Friends, then only mutual friends of yours will be able to see your likes and comments on the post. If they have it set to Friends of Friends, then all of your friends could potentially see them.

      In either case, if someone can see the likes, they can see the comments. The privacy is attached to the original post, not to the reactions to it.

      I hope that clarifies things.

      - Elizabeth

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