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

  • It seems like the option to see your various friends lists as feeds was just taken away today!!! Have you seen this? Is there a workaround? Now the URL http://www.facebook.com/bookmarks/lists just brings you to a place you can create a list, but you can't see the ones you already created.

    Secondary question, in that case, how can we edit a list? There doesn't seem to be a way to get to it anymore?

    Thanks

    • Hi Ellen.

      I'm still seeing my list of, well, Lists on that page, so it sounds like there was either a temporary glitch or, more likely, Facebook is testing something out with a subset of users. Unfortunately, since I'm not getting that result, I can't look into other options, but maybe some other T4L readers will have ideas.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi. Photos and Posts that I have liked appear on my friends' timelines as "Dulce liked such and such's photo or post". However, this never appears on my timeline. I cannot automatically see what my friends have liked elsewhere on my timeline except on the side bar. Would you happen to know why and I can change this. Thx!

    • Hi Dulce.

      Unfortunately, it's a complete mystery why some things work one way for some people on Facebook and another way for other people. If any T4L readers know how to get posts in their news feed when friends like other people's posts, please let us know!

      - Elizabeth

    • A Chrome browser extension called "Fluff Busting Purity" will allow you to change some of what shows up in your feed, specifically those friends' likes and comments.

      • Thanks, Katze. They have versions for other browsers as well, so I'm checking it out. - Elizabeth

  • Thanks for this information! I tried making a list as you suggested, hoping to get the groups I belong to back onto my news feed - but facebook doesn't offer me the option of adding these groups to a list. Any advice?

    • Hi Pat.

      You're correct. Groups can't be added to lists. To make sure you see them in your newsfeed, go to the group's page and put your mouse over the Joined button below the cover photo. A menu will drop down that will let you follow the group, which should make it appear in your newsfeed (although you may not see every post, just like you don't see every post from your friends).

      If you want to make sure you don't miss any group posts, use the Notifications button. You can choose between being notified for all new posts, ones that Facebook think will interest you (Highlights), only those that your own friends post, or none at all.

      I hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

  • Is it possible to amend what 'likes' I see on my friends posts? I have one 'friend' who is a serial liker, no matter what somebody posts I see "xxxx and 3 others have liked this post". Why do I always see his/her name? It's as if they've taken over FB and it is really turning me off the site. It may sound trivial but I really am tired of seeing their name attached to every little thing. I can't unfriend/block them as that will open a whole new can of worms, I deliberately avoid looking at their page but if there was a way to not see their name liking posts then that would make me very happy.

    • Hi Tyler.

      Unfortunately, I don't think there's any way to do that. Facebook always spells out the names of people you're friends with in the Likes section of your friends' posts.

      If you're seeing posts in your Newsfeed that start out with "So-and-so liked this post", I think you can turn that off by Unfollowing them. That's different from Unfriending and they won't know. Go to their page and there's a Follow button at the bottom of the cover photo. Click that to see the Unfollow option. It may also make that person's name less likely to show up as one of the "named likers" if there are other mutual friends liking the post, but I'm not certain of that.

      - Elizabeth

  • Sometimes I find a story or picture I would like to only share with one specific friend, so instead of posting it to my timeline for all friends to see, I will post just on that one particular friend's timeline. However, I have also noticed that this will show up in other friends' feeds that I did this. Likewise, I see other friends' posts that they specifically shared with just one or two people. Such as, "John shared XYZ with Mary". Facebook doing this seems to defeat the purpose of sharing that post with just that one person! I have dug deep into Facebook settings trying to find a way to stop this from happening, but can't seem to find any privacy or feed setting about this. Am I missing something, or is it impossible to change?

    • Hi Melanie.

      Posting to a friend's Timeline isn't the same as sending a private message to the person. To do what you want, you should use the private message option, which you can do through Facebook on your computer (there should be a Messages link under Favorites in the left-hand column) or the Messenger app on your mobile device.

      I hope that helps!

      - Elizabeth

  • Is there a way I can post on certain pages I like without my post appearing down my friends newsfeeds?

    • Hi John.

      Unfortunately, there's no way to control what gets seen on your friends' news feeds when you post on other pages. Brand pages are public so anyone who follows them might see it. And if you're posting on other people's profiles, then their privacy settings determine who can see them.

      - Elizabeth

  • On my I pad I delete posts from my news feed page and they continue to reappear several times.What do I do?

    • Hi Catherine.

      I'm afraid I don't have an answer for this one. Sounds like one of those random Facebook glitches that hopefully sorts itself out over time.

      Sorry I can't be more helpful!

      - Elizabeth

  • Other than blocking or adding them to the restricted list, is there any way to stop everything I do on Facebook (liking friends' posts, commenting on friends' posts, sharing friends' posts, writing on friends' walls, adding photos to any of my albums, etc.) from going onto the newsfeeds of all of my friends?

    • Hi Kelly.

      Unfortunately, no. Facebook doesn't provide much control to users outside of basic posting.

      - Elizabeth

      • That is a real shame. Ok, in that case, I have another question - I think I may already know the answer, but I just want to be sure. Any information I add to the "About" section of my profile (Work and Education, Places You've Lived, Contact and Business Info, Family and Relationships, Details About You, Life Events), will it still show up in my friends' newsfeeds even though I've chosen to keep those sections private - where only I can see it and none of my friends?

        • I will say that it *shouldn't show up in your news feeds. But I wouldn't take anything as 100%. My advice is if you want to make sure somebody doesn't see something, don't put it on the Internet. - Elizabeth

  • yeah, using the lists to make sure stuff shows up in your feed is pretty clever. you missed one part of the trick though, and it's something that even works on the mobile apps. what you do is put everyone whose posts you always want to see on your close friends list, which happens to bexplain the used at the default setting for which list you want to see in your feed. it's a bit of a pain to go through your friends list one by one and designate them all as close friends, but it gets the job done and you only have to do it once. set your news feed presence to most recent and you'll have your feet set up as close to perfect as you can get it. you still won't see everything in correct chronological order though, because the weight of importance the algorithm assigns to a post can be enough to override your chosen preference of most recent and place that post in higher position than the post that is actually most recent. of course if you're at your computer using the main desktop site anyway, you might want to just put your cursor on the spot where it says most recent near the top of your feed, click on the arrow that appears, and use the drop down menu brought onscreen by clicking the arrow, and choose the bottom option listed that says show posts from all my friends. save yourself a little time and effort.that's what I'd do anyway, but you take care of it whichever way you want.

    • Hi Eric.

      Thanks for sharing that info. It looks like autocorrect changed some words in your comment and I'm not sure what you actually typed here: "which happens to bexplain the used at the default setting." But, yes, I agree FB uses the Close Friends list as a strong factor in their algorithm and will improve your chances of seeing everyone's posts.

      - Elizabeth

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