Facebook’s latest mobile app update for iOS and Android declared war on the “Most Recent posts” setting, burying it so deeply within the interface that most users concluded that it had gone missing altogether. This brought outcry from users who have grown weary of increasingly seeing posts at the top of their news feed that are several hours old, and had been routinely using the Most Recent tab in order to view posts that are timely. Instead, I took it as a challenge. If Facebook is that adamant about force-feeding me older posts for algorithm-based reasons that make no common sense, I decided that I was going to find out just what was being hidden from me. So for the past week, each time I’ve launched my Facebook mobile app, I’ve immediately set it to Most Recent and proceeded from there. The results were rather enlightening.
In fairness to Facebook, if you have a large number of friends, you’re automatically going to miss some people’s posts unless you’re literally looking at your timeline 24/7. Facebook’s algorithm attempts to determine who you’re most closely connected with, based on whose posts you “Like” or comment on, along with a host of other factors, and often ends up deciding that when you log in it’s more important for you to see an older post from someone you care about more than a new post from someone you’re less interested in. The trouble: the algorithm stinks.
What I learned rather quickly from my Most Recent Posts is that I’ve managed to forget about some of my Facebook friends entirely. Suddenly I’m seeing posts from people whom Facebook must have decided were so irrelevant to me that their stuff never made it into my news feed at all. This applied equally to people I friended years ago but never established the kind of back-and-forth connection with that Facebook could identify as being important, and to fan pages that I had forgotten I ever joined in the first place. I almost never like or comment posts made by the famous musicians I follow, but I enjoy seeing the updates and pictures they post. Since switching over to Most Recent, it’s like I’ve suddenly got my Facebook back again.
Of course my eyes are only on my Facebook timeline for so many minutes (okay, hours) per day. That means that while I’m seeing everyone’s posts listed democratically with equal weight, I’m missing out on some of the posts that Facebook would have been feeding me on a calculated basis. And sometimes Facebook’s guesses are entirely correct; the fact that I always click “Like” on pictures of my baby niece is indeed an indicator that I want those pictures to show up in my news feed when I log in even if they’re hours old – and indeed, even if someone I care less about has posted something more recently.
My conclusions after a week of using Facebook strictly through the Most Recent posts tab: 1. I found equal value in looking at my algorithm-based news feed and the most recent posts. 2. I’ll likely split my time between the two going forward. 3. Facebook needs to get a whole lot better at figuring out what I want before its arrogance at hiding the Most Recent feature is justified. Those users who want to know where to find the Most Recent feature in the latest version of the mobile Facebook app can find them here.