The 30-day Facebook like fast: how it went.
In mid-August, I read a post by a blogger who decided to give up “liking” things on Facebook for two weeks; she found it to be helpful on a number of levels and felt it changed the content of her Facebook news feed. I decided to do the same experiment for 30 days, a sort of Facebook “like” fast. (I’ve never done a food diet in my life for more than 10 days, but I digress.)
Why I did the Facebook like fast.
Because I manage social media for clients, I’m on all the major platforms a lot, as in all of them day six days a week. Of all the major social media sites, Facebook seems to be the most pervasive, in size, scope and emotionality. LinkedIn is all business, Twitter is constant stream of short blurbs that just wash over you, Pinterest is eye-candy. But Facebook is about people, pets, politics and a whole lot more. The opportunities for toxic, gullible, infuriating and disgusting posts are rampant, and people take those opportunities. It’s a lifestyle. When people show their butts – something I’ve done myself, many times – it’s really public. And, Facebook’s algorithm magnifies the effect.
What “liking” does.
Scroll through your Facebook newsfeed, see something you agree with, hit “like” and keep moving. No biggie, right? Wrong. That “like” causes your friends to see whatever it was. They may not want to. And, many of the lurk-and-like types – people who never actually interact with Facebook friends but “like” every dad-gum thing they see – are filling up their friends’ feeds with their stuff. All the while, they get to feel that they have fulfilled some sort of social obligation.
The other thing that “liking” on Facebook does is to let Facebook know that you want more of the things you are liking. Sounds good, right? Not necessarily. If you frequently “like” articles about cute dogs, Facebook’s algorithm will also feed you posts about animal rights, including animal abuse. You may not want images of maimed and starved puppies with your morning coffee.
How I did the like fast.
Not being one who “likes” everything, it was relatively easy to stop hitting the “like” button for everything I actually liked. I messed up and “liked” a few things due to lack of manual dexterity, especially on my phone, but only four or five times. Each time, I felt like someone in AA who took a drink without realizing it; shame and guilt washed over me. But I got over it and stayed on the “like” wagon. Instead of “liking” things, if I actually did appreciate a post, I’d make a comment, or share it. (PS. Facebook values those activities more than “likes.”) Commenting usually started a conversation (wha?) and sharing gave real “social proof” to the post. If the shared post was for a business, that meant they were doing it right, creating content I really did feel good about passing along to friends. True engagement ensued.
What I learned.
The first thing I noticed is that I started paying more attention to my newsfeed, to what appeared there and to the people whose posts appeared in my feed. As a result, I got a bit (okay, a whole lot) pickier about who I chose to follow. Unfriending is the nuclear option, but unfollowing is easy and under the radar. Managing who I followed and stayed friends with improved the quality of the content in my newsfeed. People who routinely (though innocently) post hoaxes and fake quotes got unfollowed. So did people who post pictures of abused and maimed animals. So did political extremists (either direction), vaguebookers, and drama queens.
The second thing is that I connected better with people. Taking the time to type a comment (five whole seconds, usually) or to share something really great (IMHO) made for more authentic interactions. If I can’t be bothered to do that much, why am I friends with those people? After I unfollowed the folks who annoyed me, I was much more inclined to engage with others.
The newsfeed did get better (less drek) but it’s unclear whether a lack of “liking” actually affected what Facebook’s algorithm chose to serve up to me. The aforementioned bloggist believes it does, and that seems logical. But changing my other behaviors probably mattered more. Sure enough, constantly liking gardening posts will probably get you more of that, but whittling down who you follow is something you, not Facebook’s algorithm, can control.
Let’s say that again: who you follow is something you control; change that, and you change the quality of your newsfeed.
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