I use Facebook Without the Algorithm, and You Can Too

Facebook crashed, states whistleblower Frances Haugen, who works on the company’s civic integrity team. Testifying before Congress and the media, Haugen argued that the social giant’s algorithms have contributed to diseases ranging from mental health issues among teenagers to ethnic violence in Ethiopia. There is no one solution to do fix all Facebook errors“No, not even a new name—But one of Haugen’s suggestions stood up.

“I’m a strong proponent of chronological ranking, ruling by time with little spam damage,” he told the Senate last month. “We need to have human-scaled software, where people have a conversation, not computers that speed up who we can hear.”

Imagine that! People… talk… together. That’s why Haugen recommends a Facebook News Feed where things can be seen as people post them, rather than a series shared by the company’s algorithm wizardry. In this world, likes and comments don’t dictate what you see. It’s all a matter of time – which will also prevent the algorithm from throwing logs at the most inflammatory posts on the platform.

This is not a radical idea. Instagram only provides the algorithm the revenue of your feed in 2016. Twitter took the chronology for the entire same year, in also introduce it as an option in 2018. And you can also channel the Facebook News Feed algorithm right now, right now. I know, because I’ve been doing this for the past two weeks.

In fairness, it’s not like Facebook is hiding the option. On the desktop, you just click Last in the left pane. On mobile, you’ll find Most Now under the hamburger menu in the far right corner. As Facebook itself warns, though, the experience is short -lived. “You can configure your News Feed to see what’s posted now,” a help page at one company says, “but the News Feed will eventually revert to its default setting.” (Or you can just use this link instead of facebook dot com, and load a ranking experience every time.)

To get a possible obvious watch on the road: I’m not really a user of the power of Facebook. I post three or four times a year from 2019, where all the WIRED stories or attempts to start a business for my daughter’s Girl Scout cookie hurry. My account is private, and no matter how I am a member of 14 groups, more than half of those didn’t post anything in the last year, while I checked three, and forgot the rest. However, any real accounting gets me on Facebook a few times a week. Call it the usual force, call it Marketplace voyeurism. Regardless, I’m familiar with how the News Feed usually works — and struck by how different an experience is given a healthy dose of chronology.

I also don’t want to express things. The diseases that Haugen suggested could be cured were largely not in my social media content to begin with, no matter what I saw. Facebook also uses many algorithms; here it only refers to the News Feed ranking of the platform. And I’m hesitant to say if the experience should be any better, at least for me, than what Facebook currently has to offer. Much more interesting, though, is what is being said about Facebook itself.

I have 975 Facebook friends, gathered in the last 13 years or so. I “liked” 15 pages, a main list consisting of news outlets, including some friends who changed their profiles to Pages, and Cheez-Its, for some reason. (The reason is that Cheez-Its is delicious.)

You might think that in a healthy social network, even chronologically, the ratio of posts from friends to brands would almost reflect the proportion of following it. You don’t have to think, really; the chronological movement of Twitter is like this, with ebbs and flows throughout the day that map the real human activity of the people you follow.

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