Facebook has just announced that it will be introducing a ‘major change’ to the News Feed, presenting more content from people you know and less public content from brands, media and more. These changes started to a certain degree last year, and they will increase in the following months, the ultimate goal being that Facebook wants to “encourage meaningful interactions between people.” Company CEO Mark Zuckerberg detailed these plans in a long post.
Facebook recently responded to criticism that social media makes people feel worse by highlighting a bunch of research saying that it is how you use the social network that matters. Use it correctly and it’ll improve your life and sense of well being; use it incorrectly and you’ll feel lonely and isolated.
A new post from Zuckerberg seems to circle back around to that topic in a roundabout way, mentioning that research in a long post announcing what he calls a “major change” coming to your News Feed.
…recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content — posts from businesses, brands and media — is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other.
It’s easy to understand how we got here. 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.
Based on this [aforementioned research], we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.
We started making changes in this direction last year, but it will take months for this new focus to make its way through all our products. The first changes you’ll see will be in News Feed, where you can expect to see more from your friends, family and groups.
In addition to seeing more from your friends and family, Facebook users will be seeing “less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media.” That may be bad news for companies and content creators who rely on Facebook for significant amounts of their traffic, but how drastic the change will be isn’t clear yet.
Zuckerberg warns, “Now, I want to be clear: by making these changes, I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down.” However, he says the time users spend on Facebook “will be more valuable” than it currently is. Whether such big changes will please users is unclear, though.
The business decision seems to be based at least partly on growing reports that social media platforms like Facebook can have a negative effect on a user’s mental health. Many former users have taken to platforms like Reddit to announce that their sense of well-being has improved since deleting their Facebook accounts. User who have already left may not be willing to return despite big changes like this.
However, Facebook risks upsetting brands and media that may decide the platform is no longer worth putting effort into. In a post, the company explained:
As we make these updates, Pages may see their reach, video watch time and referral traffic decrease. The impact will vary from Page to Page, driven by factors including the type of content they produce and how people interact with it. Pages making posts that people generally don’t react to or comment on could see the biggest decreases in distribution. Pages whose posts prompt conversations between friends will see less of an effect.
Users will have the option of choosing Pages they want to “See First” in their News Feed Preferences so that posts from those Pages show up in their feeds. Otherwise, they’ll start seeing posts from friends and family get priority.