Facebook’s Timeline

Yes, I’m using WordPress to discuss Facebook. So sue me.

Many of us have griped about Facebook’s strategy of not showing us all entries from all of our friends or pages but instead attempting to analyze our actions to judge which entries we like or don’t like.

Stop trying to help me, Facebook!

I have about eighty friends. I have lots of friends with three times as many friends as I do. I have friends with six times as many, eight times as many, fifteen times as many, and even twenty times as many friends as I do.

Clearly they treat the word “friend” differently than I do.

I can see why a high school student with allegedly 1600 friends wouldn’t want or be able to process every update from all 1600 of those friends. I can see why someone with 800 friends and “liked” pages wouldn’t try to keep up with all of them.

Those of us with under a 100 friends who check in daily (or several times daily) are a different breed. There’s a reason I’m no longer friends with most of my high school classmates and most of my college classmates: they really aren’t important to me. I was curious about many of them and friended them, But as was driven home by the one class reunion I attended, I don’t have much in common with many of them, and the classmates with whom I had the most fun weren’t at the reunion. The eighty or so people I’m friends with are people I want to keep up with: cousins, distant friends, some past professional colleagues with whom I’d enjoy user group meetings and the occasional late night discussion on some random topic. For the most part, if I wouldn’t look you up if I was travelling through your town, I probably won’t call you a friend on Facebook.

Facebook’s algorithms place great interest in what I “like” and what I “share.” This makes sense: sharing something says to my friends and followers, “I think you should see this.” “Liking” might mean something like that; Lord knows, I see lots of entries on my “Timeline” that so-and-so liked this or that. Except that Facebook hopes those “likes” are our hints to the algorithms about what we like. If that’s the case, why do they also tell my friends that I liked this or that? Are they supposed to care about “likes” or “shares”? As it is, I use “like” as a signal from me to the author that I saw something (and, presumably, liked it, but not necessarily) if I’m not going to comment on it.

Facebook has two special categories of friends: friends whose activities go to the top of my Timeline, and friends whose activities don’t appear on my Timeline. The second category is mildly useful for me: cousins I can’t bear to drop but whose politics or religious testimony annoy me get put in that category. The former isn’t exactly right: I like my Timeline in chronological order, but I want a switch that means, “Darn it, Facebook, almost any meaningful act from this person except the mere act of ‘liking’ something should be on my Timeline.”

Maybe I’m example of a tiny niche. Maybe most daily or more-than-daily participants have two or three times as many “friends” as I do. If that’s the case, I’m probably not worth my own special algorithms. But I hope they run the numbers and try to figure that out before they decide, “Why bother on his case?”

Says me, anyway….


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