To a large extent, Facebook controls what users see on their news feed, and the social media company says users will soon see more posts relating to family and friends and fewer posts by commercial interests.
Currently, users might see news articles and videos posted by publishers, with content relating to the users' interests. In the weeks ahead, Facebook will begin emphasizing content that comes from users' family and friends.
Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says the change is designed to make users feel “happier” and more connected to the people with whom they have relationships.
In a Facebook post, Zuckerberg writes that feedback from users indicates that posts from businesses, brands, and media are crowding out more personal content.
"Balance has shifted"
“It's easy to understand how we got here,” Zuckerberg wrote. “Video and other public content have exploded on Facebook in the past couple of years. Since there's more public content than posts from your friends and family, the balance of what's in News Feed has shifted away from the most important thing Facebook can do -- help us connect with each other.”
For businesses, Facebook has become a major marketing platform and many are using it as a low-cost way to reach tens of millions of potential customers. Publishers whose posts show up in news feeds register significant increases in internet traffic, which can be monetized.
Zuckerberg says Facebook is just trying to make its users happier, pointing to research that he says shows connecting with friends and family leads to good results.
“We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health,” he wrote. “On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good.”
A check of ConsumerAffairs reviews shows some Facebook users have issues that go beyond simply reading articles or watching videos. The social media site sometimes turns into a place where users hurl insults at one another over political and social issues.
“In the past, I have lodged complaints about inappropriate posts and have had people attack me and was told repeatedly that the content doesn't violate their policies. However, when I defended myself, I was immediately put in jail, supposedly for 24 hours, which has now stretched for 48+ hours,” Melissa, of Culleoka, Tenn., wrote in a ConsumerAffairs post.
“I am sick and tired of seeing neo-nazi, evangelical, hate-filled posts that are deemed ‘acceptable,’ but me defending myself is offensive.”
In fact, recent reviews of Facebook reveal a significant number of users who either feel they are being harassed by others on the site or have been punished by Facebook for something they posted.
Zuckerberg's announcement of a policy change may or may not make these users happier, but he says he hopes the company's changes will make time spent on the site more valuable for most users.
“And if we do the right thing, I believe that will be good for our community and our business over the long term too,” he concluded.