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Posted at 12:15 PM ET, 02/14/2011

Facebook News Feed filtering can make friends vanish

By Rob Pegoraro

If some of your friends seem to have become unusually quiet on Facebook, it may not be their fault.

Last week, as noted on such specialist blogs as Inside Facebook and All Facebook, the social network quietly changed the settings that govern what updates appear in the News Feed.


Before, clicking the "Most Recent" link atop that list of updates would give you exactly that: the most recent updates from your friends, instead of the automatically edited selection available under "Top News." Now, however, the Most Recent list can itself be filtered: Facebook can hide some updates by friends if you haven't interacted with them on the site recently.

(In a similar move, Facebook now sorts posts on pages from fans by their perceived relevance, not the order in which they were posted.)

To check, click the Most Recent link (twice if you're now viewing the Top News list) and select "Edit Options..." from the menu that appears below it. You'll see a dialog pop open, as seen above; its "Show posts from:" menu will offer a choice of "Friends and pages you interact with most" or "All of your friends and pages." The latter will restore things to their prior working, showing everything from your friends (and the companies, organizations and public figures whose pages you've endorsed with a click of their Like buttons).

In fairness to Facebook, it's tackling one of the harder problems in computing: finding out what's important to a user and hiding what's not. This challenge comes up in one category of application after another and has spawned solutions as diverse as Gmail's "Priority Inbox" and the smart playlists that music programs offer to ensure you can keep rocking along to 2003's greatest hits.

But this sort of change requires better documentation than Facebook has provided so far. More choices in News Feed filtering would also help. Here are a few options that I'd like to see the site add:

* Hide politically themed updates from friends I tolerate despite their reactionary/pinko leanings.

* Hide politically themed updates from friends of similar political views who just can't shut up about them.

* Hide really syrupy Valentine's Day greetings and other public displays of digital affection.

* Hide all updates from Facebook games.

* Show only the first four copies of a joke, link, photo or video once it starts to go viral across the site.

* Hide status updates that a friend has cross-posted from Twitter, but show all other posts by that friend.

(Post Co. Chairman Donald E. Graham sits on Facebook's board of directors. For that sort of case, Facebook needs yet another filter: Always show updates from my bosses, especially if they pertain to my job.)

What sort of filters would you like to see between you and the News Feed? Post your suggestions in the comments.

By Rob Pegoraro  | February 14, 2011; 12:15 PM ET
Categories:  Social media  
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"Hide all updates from Facebook games."
Can't you turn that off already by disabling all app notifications?

What I'd like is an easy way to have 2 or 3 /completely separate/ lists of friends. Say, my old friends I've known since 1971, the people I've known online over 10 years via Slashdot and other places, and current friends.

Posted by: wiredog | February 14, 2011 1:01 PM | Report abuse

Hide all updates from friends cooing about their adorable kid(s). :)

Posted by: rakeshlobster | February 14, 2011 3:21 PM | Report abuse

Hide any status that says "if this as your status."
I'm in favor of curing cancer, saving whales, etc. but I loathe moral blackmail.

Posted by: lu1wml | February 14, 2011 7:29 PM | Report abuse

Hide updates from anyone who uses teh facebooks?

I'm one geeky guy (I'm responding to this in my new Pinguy linux virtual machine), but the idea behind Facebook's Wall and the entire Twitterverse makes me want to punch people in the throat.

"I just burped. It smells like asparagus."

"My kid just said the funniest thing. I'll remember it tomorrow and tell you."

"Oh, those poor Egyptians: they must get hungry yelling for so long."

And my personal favorite, from Doonesbury:

"Shorts bunching up; thoughts?"

Inane, all of it.

Posted by: Bush--notrelated | February 14, 2011 9:34 PM | Report abuse

Can I make facebook a friend on facebook? I almost always hear about a recent change to facebook via another source than from facebook itself. I think that facebook needs to put its own news and updates in the Most Recent list.

Posted by: mikebecvar | February 15, 2011 8:10 AM | Report abuse

@wiredog -- that's easy -- just create separate groups and add those people to their respective group(s). I have various groups and when I want to see only their stuff, I'll click on the group name (Neighborhood Peeps, Old School, College, Work, etc.). You can also use groups to secure who sees what.

Posted by: SamFelis | February 15, 2011 10:36 AM | Report abuse

I'd like to have the 3,500 friends I once had at Facebook. I was trying to get the number up to 5,000, supposed ceiling on friend levels. Facebook found a pretty fair excuse for shutting my facebook down entirely. But it wasn't my fault. I had signed up with a seemingly innocuous FB service that gradually began to post snarling material on mine and other signee's newsfeeds. A woman friend saw one of these on my newsfeed and complained in a comment about it. It was a drawing that I couldn't decipher myself, but, in a private phone call to the friend later, I learned that she thought it was a drawing of a vagina, which she thought disgusting. I don't know if this was just an excuse to prevent me from gathering friends past 3,500 or if the drawing was the real reason. I know that I endured a lot of badgering behind the scenes from google algorithms for gathering friends too fast. Google's algorithms have tightened further in the period since I was unceremoniously booted. Now it begins badgering if you attempt to add friends who live just a few hundred miles away. Meanwhile, Aberdeen, England has literally thousands of Facebook members who have 5,000 friends. Many of them were once friends of mine.

Posted by: miker3 | February 15, 2011 11:05 AM | Report abuse

I would like my facebook feed to be divided into subfeeds.

1. Personal Status.
2. News discussion
3. Fan pages
4. Random Video Links (Facebook will stamp these LOL/CheckThisOut/Hilarious for you)
5. Random Quotes (Facebook will add comments from one random users as "So True")

I am semi-serious. It would be great to have some kind of control as what I want to read depends on my mood at that instant and it is frustrating to go through something that is boring at that moment to reach something that you are interested in.

Ofcourse thre could be a catch all news feed that has everything.

Facebook needs filters. It assumes that you should read everything from everyone but that ends up in people completely ignoring some others. Well just like real life I guess.

Posted by: Nikdeo | February 15, 2011 3:56 PM | Report abuse

This still doesn’t solve the longstanding problem that I and thousands of others have about only being able to see News Feed posts which are less than 24 hours old. This should not be rocket science. If it is, there are thousands of unemployed rocket scientists thanks to budget cutbacks.

Posted by: 54Stratocaster | February 15, 2011 5:31 PM | Report abuse

Great blog and true facts reflected in this writeup. Thanks for sharing the information.

Posted by: SarahSEO | February 16, 2011 2:49 AM | Report abuse

This is a very interesting issue. I noticed that I was hearing from fewer and fewer of my face book friends and then I got a status update from one of them.

Posted by: thereeds44 | February 21, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

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