At the dawn of social media your news feed was a simple, chronological, list of items that your friends had posted. You would log in and see what folks had to say, and if you hadn’t logged in for a couple days you might have to scroll down a bit to catch up. It was an easy and simple process. Fast forward to 2017 and social media feeds have “evolved” into one of the most frustrating experiences of the modern internet.
A few years ago it all started with Facebook. They decided to start filtering and ordering your news feed to be more similar to how a Google search works. When you search for something in Google you want the most relevant answer to show up at the top. Which this logic is great for search engines, it’s frustrating as heck for social media feeds. Facebook started curating your feed into “Top News”. They use mediocre algorithms to show you what they felt you wanted to see first, and present your feed in a relevance order instead of chronological. This was their attempt to make your social media feed relevant and timely, showing you the items that Facebook believed you wanted to see first and hiding posts from people that you probably didn’t want to see anyway.
This change is one of the most maddening part of being on social media. It’s tremendously frustrating when Facebook doesn’t get it right, and it almost never gets it right. I’m constantly bewildered how posts from my wife sometimes never show in my feed, or they might show up once, and then disappear forever. This is despite tuning my feed preferences to include my wife in the circle of people I want to see first. It’s infuriating to have a conversation with my wife, or another close friend, and have them say, “Did you see that link I posted on Facebook?” Only to have to reply that I hadn’t, and then go search for their feed directly to find what they wanted me to see. I can’t simply scroll down to the day when they posted it, as Facebook may have decided that it’s not worth showing me at all.
It’s bad enough that Facebook pushes this garbage method of presenting you with content, but it’s seeped over into other social media streams as well. Instagram has adopted this method and it peeves me off to not get photos in the right order. On more than one occasion this has meant that I’ve missed out on an event, or sale, because Instagram decided not to show me a pic from a place I enjoy, at the time when they posted it.
What’s really become the last straw for me is that my fitness tracker Strava has started to pull this same bulls**t. Strava has always been an awesome fitness social media feed because you can follow friend and give them kudos on their workouts. In the past, when you logged in you would get a simple chronological list of activities that have happened in the past and you could scroll through them to your hearts content. Now, they’ve moved towards a relevance model which means things show up as Strava feels I want to see them. They’ve posted links to research that they’ve done and why they feel this is the best way to do this, but for me, I want chronological back.
I’m really tired of these companies trying to decide how I want to interact with my social circles. Just give me a list of everything in order. I can determine pretty quickly, while scrolling through, what I want to spend time on. Is chronological order perfect? Probably not, but it should at least be an option. Let me scroll through my chronological feed, and if when I’m done I want to click a button to see what my social media provider thinks I should see, then I can do that. Basically, stop trying so hard to figure out what is important to me. I’m a big boy and I can do that for myself.