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

  • Too bad about them taking away the list management options. Still these are great tips for making facebook a little more user friendly. I wonder how the reach of pages changes based on these settings, what it would do if everyone change to most recent.

  • In the section on Lists, the choice Choose Update Types doesn't appear in my menu. Any suggestions? Thanks

    • Hi Rhonda.

      It looks like they took away this feature, very soon after I wrote this post from the looks of it!

      Thanks for letting me know. I'll update the post.

      Ugh.

      - Elizabeth

  • Hi, could you tell me if you are still getting more than edit list on your manage list option? Since May I have only had EDIT on mine.
    A bit pointless now having lists when there is never anything on them and Facebook tell you to go to Newsfeed to see more.
    Would you know of any other way to get my lists back the way they were, or has face book decided we aren't going to have it as we want and changed everything yet again?

    Thank you

    • Hi Merilyn.

      Unfortunately, Facebook took away the ability to choose what type of updates you want to see. They seem to be really focused on making sure we see the things they want us to see, not what we want to see. :(

      - Elizabeth

  • Well, Facef$$$ has now gone one better. My entire newsfeed has disappeared, only one story from yesterday is posted. But if I sort by Top Stories, it appears everything is there. Unfortunately, that is useless to me because it means to find one post of importance that I know came last Friday, I have to scroll through 100 posts Facejerks think are more important than what *I* think are important. I wish i could afford to throw my laptop against a wall. I do a huge amount of work with a non-profit which is the ONLY reason I am on Facebook at all. but now it's completely useless....I hate those people.

    • Hi Kit.

      I'm sorry for the lengthy delay in replying. This sounds like the kind of thing that is a temporary glitch. I haven't experienced this recently. Is it working properly for you now?

      - Elizabeth

  • Very well written article thank you. However did you realise that facebook have somehow mucked up our close friends lists and all the other lists that we can create.
    You quote: "You’ll now see a feed of all the activity by the people on your list. And I do mean ALL activity, including what your friends have liked, commented on, shared, were tagged in and posted to other people’s Timelines. However, you do have some ability to manage what type of activity is displayed."

    For the last couple of weeks or so this is now no longer the case and we only see our friends actual posts or 'pages' that they have liked or nothing at all!. Take a look at this where hundreds of complaints are being filed in the facebook help pages:
    https://www.facebook.com/help/community/question/?id=865462670181804&ref=notif&notif_t=answers_answered

    My question to you is: Do you think this is just a temporary glitch or something permanent?

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