The Problem with Facebook: “It’s Keeping Things From You”

You liked our Face­book page. Now you’re expect­ing to see our mate­r­i­al in your Face­book news feed. It’s not an unrea­son­able expec­ta­tion. But it’s also very unlike­ly to hap­pen. As Derek Muller, the cura­tor of sci­ence video blog Ver­i­ta­si­um, explains very artic­u­late­ly in the video above, “The prob­lem with Face­book is that it’s keep­ing things from you. You don’t see most of what’s post­ed by your friends or the pages you fol­low.” And that’s part­ly because, Muller goes on to explain, Face­book is over­whelmed by con­tent, and busy try­ing to find ways to mon­e­tize its news­feed. Fol­low­ing a change to an algo­rithm in Decem­ber, the prob­lem has only got­ten worse. (We have 245,000 fol­low­ers, and maybe 7,000 — or 2% — see a post on aver­age in Jan­u­ary, as com­pared to 30,000 in Novem­ber.) If you care about how you use Face­book — either to con­nect with friends, or gath­er infor­ma­tion — the video is well worth watch­ing. It clear­ly lets you know that Face­book is con­trol­ling your social media expe­ri­ence, when it should be you.

Note: If you want to make sure you receive all of our posts, get our dai­ly email or sign up for our RSS feed. Face­book does­n’t con­trol those … yet.

You can read more about this issue at Slate.

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Comments (19)
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  • Wabble says:

    Just get a feed read­er. Face­book does not con­trol that, either.

  • Mother Theresa says:

    Iron­ic I’m ‘lik­ing’ this on fb.

  • Bert says:


    thanks for the video. I noticed the big drop of my com­pa­ny page a few weeks ago. After some research, I start­ed test­ing the paid tool, but it now real­ly feels like col­lab­o­rat­ing in a sys­tem that is basi­cal­ly black­mail­ing you — either you pay, or you can’t reach for your audience/followers. It’s a con­struct­ed rat race that will be hard to get out of, since it will only work if enough companies/people don’t join/pay. But then what to do with your hard earned fan base?


  • John Boanerges Redman says:

    You asked for feed­back on what our out­reach on FB turns out to be. I have 500+ friends divid­ed between folk music performers/fellow fans and free­dom activists. I post 20 to 100 links per day. I get vir­tu­al­ly no track­back from the Folkies (I have face to face con­firm from some that they do not get my posts while I DO get theirs) but some from the activists. With that, I get posts from a lot that don’t “hear” me. I com­ment on many of the posts on my feed and get respons­es to the com­ments I make, even from some who tag my name. I have to say that THIS is not what I had envi­sioned when I start­ed build­ing up my friends net­work. Maybe these com­pet­ing social media are where its at. Answer back, if you please.

  • Andres says:

    From a con­tent receiv­er per­spec­tive, there is anoth­er solu­tion with­out hav­ing to quit face­book: Switch from a pas­sive infor­ma­tion con­sumer to an infor­ma­tion seek­er. You like some­one’s page in fb?, go vis­it their wall every now and then and read their posts! Don’w wait for some­one to pre-pack­age infor­ma­tion for you. And also, up-to-the minute news for such top­ics is a bit over­rat­ed…

  • Meg says:

    @Andres excel­lent point. Does any­one remem­ber when face­book first imple­ment­ed a News Feed, and EVERYONE hat­ed it? Go find the con­tent you want, don’t wait for it to come to you!

  • Edward Antrobus says:

    Face­book is sim­ply over­sat­u­rat­ing the ad poten­tial of their plat­form. It’s not uncom­mon to see a dozen ads in the stream.

    Com­pli­cat­ing the mat­ter is the fact that there isn’t enough vari­ety of the ads; it seems to always be the same few. I’m not sure if this is a mat­ter of Face­book has defined my adver­tis­ing pro­file too nar­row­ly, or there sim­ply aren’t as many adver­tis­ers out there as they make it out to be. I’ve got­ten to the point where I sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly report any ad that is shown to me more than once.

    At the end of the day, I’ve all but giv­en up on Face­book as a plat­form for shar­ing infor­ma­tion oth­er than per­son­al infor­ma­tion to the dozen peo­ple I inter­act with most. I have 146 FB friends, but a quick sur­vey of my news feed shows just 10. Frankly, I might as well not have the oth­er 136 for as much as I see them.

  • Ralph Haygood says:

    This is what I like least about Face­book: its con­tin­u­al, clum­sy attempts to decide what is or isn’t inter­est­ing to me and my friends. Last sum­mer, it was revealed that Face­book now uses “a machine-learn­ing-based approach that takes into account about 100,000 fac­tors” ( Face­book’s engi­neers seemed to imag­ine we’d be impressed, but as I com­ment­ed at the time, more fac­tors just make the black box black­er, to the point that nobody, not even the engi­neers, real­ly under­stands the algo­rithm any­more.

    Blogs fol­lowed through feeds (as I fol­low Open Cul­ture) are much more com­pre­hen­si­ble, but they gen­er­al­ly don’t facil­i­tate con­ver­sa­tion as well as Face­book does (although Tum­blr has made a decent try). I’m a soft­ware devel­op­er, and I’m cur­rent­ly devel­op­ing a ser­vice meant to com­bine the com­pre­hen­si­bil­i­ty of blogs and feeds with the con­ver­sa­tion­al­i­ty of Face­book, among oth­er advan­tages. It’s def­i­nite­ly some­thing I want myself. We’ll see whether many oth­er peo­ple want it too.

  • Vault says:

    I have over 1,200 friends & over 1,400 page likes & man­age numer­ous pages & groups, the issue is with the ui as it’s not intu­itive enough for most peo­ple as the options are there to see all posts or not as you choose, how­ev­er if you use a mobile device & access Face­book via an app then what posts you get to see are lim­it­ed by the app. to avoid this use a reg­u­lar brows­er. There are plen­ty of guides online to help peo­ple under­stand Face­books unfriend­ly ui, how­ev­er most can’t be both­ered to find out. If it both­ers you that much I sug­gest you research this & inform your page followers/likers as to how to receive all your posts. I have done exten­sive test­ing & the tools in place do work, just not obvi­ous as to how to use them.

  • Ron Lankshear says:

    Yes I agree about FB. Muller video was very excit­ed I did­n’t get to a bot­tom line on what to do?
    For you I pre­fer RSS feed and I’d like RSS for oth­er FB Pages what I fol­low. a RSS Read­er with brief head­ers in list is much eas­i­er than the ver­bose FB Pages list…

    Think­ing about FB today it seems that fol­low­ing the left pan­el “noti­fiers” might be bet­ter than try­ing to scan through the main News Feed. Which first I sort into Most Recent as I can see the Default TOP is not what I want.…

    How­ev­er to use the left pan­el I need to ensure my Con­tacts that I want are list­ed in a Friends cat­e­go­ry

  • Eileen Hale says:

    @Vault: do you have any links for such guides?

  • Lulu Peters says:

    Very accu­rate and unbe­lieve­bly smart per­spec­tive! I’ve noticed face­book is rob­bing me of the view­ers and ‘lik­ers’ of my page. I have a very active, large­ly viewed page, where I pro­vide infor­ma­tion on local restau­rants, super­mar­ket sales, etc, to a rel­a­tive­ly con­cise but rel­e­vant group of peo­ple, but I can’t make any prof­it out of it. Face­book does­n’t think it’s worth giv­ing me a chance to make some mon­ey as an incen­tive for cre­at­ing inter­est­ing con­tent. Worst, now face­book near­ly demands that I pay them to adver­tise posts that peo­ple already liked and fol­lowed. Very good video. Con­grats!

  • Michael says:

    Agreed and well said! How­ev­er, since I only use FB to con­nect with fam­i­ly and friends, I’m ok with miss­ing out on the oth­er con­tent. This means that using it for busi­ness pro­mo­tion is min­i­mal, and I’m ok with that since I’m not using it for busi­ness pro­mo­tion. If FB can show that they can make more mon­ey using the YouTube busi­ness mod­el than they would be wise to imple­ment that method.

  • SASSAS says:

    We think this is SUCH an impor­tant issue, espe­cial­ly for non prof­its like us, that we paid $10 to make sure it reached our 1847 fol­low­ers. Except that FB refused to allow us to pro­mote the post.…

    “Your ad was­n’t approved because it uses Face­book logos, trade­marks, or site ter­mi­nol­o­gy, such as “The Face­book”, “Face­bookHigh”, “FBook”, “FB”, “Poke”, “Wall”, or oth­er com­pa­ny graph­ics, logos, designs, or icons.

    Before resub­mit­ting your ad, please vis­it the Help Cen­ter to learn more and see exam­ples of ads that meet our guide­lines.
    If you’ve read the guide­lines in the Help Cen­ter and think your ad fol­lows the rules and should have been approved, please let us know.”

    We’re giv­ing it anoth­er try, point­ing to this page instead of the video and lim­it­ed the use of “FB” in our own com­men­tary. We’ll let you know how that goes…

  • Randy says:

    Also if you get a feed read­er with a long mem­o­ry (such as Brief, or its spin-off Digest) then you can still come back next month and sift through old arti­cles, like I’m doing.

    I refuse to use Face­book.
    Email is still one big toi­let bowl of spam.

    But RSS is still clean. So far.

  • William Morrison says:

    Total­ly agree with your obser­va­tion. So there is an enor­mous oppor­tu­ni­ty for a YouTube busi­ness mod­eled FB ? ( named some­thing else.)

  • Dhruv Narang says:

    Time to switch to g+

  • Son Offar says:

    @ Dhruv,
    If you dis-like FB you are going to hate G+.
    Aside from ad based con­tent and lim­it­ed receipt of the posts and mate­r­i­al you WANT to see, you will also be treat­ed to Google’s infa­mous par­a­sitic ten­drils get­ting in to every aspect of your on line activ­i­ty.
    I believe Google is just the “in your face” branch of the NSA and IRS.

  • giriraj says:

    for the secu­ri­ty birth­date delete in the option because birth­date show in a pro­file so this option not right for users

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