Have you visited your Facebook News Feed lately? If not, you’d be forgiven, and also in good company. The experience is overstuffed, a cornucopia of photos from vaguely familiar acquaintances and incongruous sponsored and suggested posts. It’s shuffled and served up by algorithms that Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen tied to all manner of societal ills. A new update is only going to muddy that experience even further, accelerating Facebook’s transition into something more like TikTok.
Facebok’s new Home tab, the default experience rolling out over the next few weeks, will ply you with videos and posts from strangers (along with accounts you actually follow) that ranking algorithms have decided you’ll engage with. In other words, a more TikTok-like experience that’s already played out to some extent on Instagram, which went through a similar transition this spring.
But Meta CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced this morning that the Facebook app will also add a new tab called Feeds, which promises to show the most recent posts from friends, groups, and Pages that you follow. It was already possible to summon a reverse-chronological view on desktop by clicking Most Recent in the left-hand panel, or navigating to Menu and then Recent & favorites in the app. But placing this front and center, keeping it one tap away, and giving it a proper name all mark a shift in how Facebook presents itself to a world that’s increasingly looking in other directions.
“One of the most requested features for Facebook is to make sure people don’t miss friends’ posts,” Zuckerberg said in a Facebook post this morning. “So today we’re launching a Feeds tab where you can see posts from your friends, groups, Pages, and more separately in chronological order.”
The Feeds tab is part of a broader reclamation of algorithm-free zones on social media. Twitter reintroduced the radical concept of showing tweets in the order they were sent in 2018. Instagram introduced similarly chronological Following and Favorites views in March, when its main feed began injecting more suggested posts as well.
Those who consider themselves starved for simpler times may find that their newly sequential Feeds tab doesn’t offer much sustenance. If anything, my experience using chronological Facebook for two weeks this spring reinforced just how few people I know still post there with any regularity. The brands are going strong, but is that who you’re looking to spend more time with? Your mileage will vary, of course, depending on how active your social circle is on Facebook these days and how many, say, media outlets you follow. (Facebook may be breaking up with news, but based on the first 20 or so posts at the top of my “Most Recent” feed Wednesday evening, the feeling is not mutual.)
Fortunately, as on Instagram, you can add “Favorites” to your Feeds tab, highlighting the people and Pages you actually want to see updates from. Whether they’re posting anything in the first place remains an issue, but at least you won’t have to scroll so far to find them when they do. And while there are still ads in Feeds, it’s mercifully bereft of “Suggested for you” posts.
Meanwhile, the default Facebook experience will shove more random content in front of your eyeballs than ever. If anything, the Feeds tab exists to free up room for the Home tab to go wild with algorithmic enticements. “This system takes into account thousands of signals to help cut through the clutter and rank content in the order we think you will find most valuable,” the company wrote in a press release announcing today’s changes. “We’re investing in AI to best serve recommended content in this ranked experience.”
Facebook says you’ll still see people you know in the Home tab, but it seems purpose-built to prioritize the random encounters that drive so much of TikTok’s virality. Instagram is likely instructive here, as well: The main view of the app has become overwhelmed with suggested Reels and posts. It’s engagement by way of clutter, with Following and Favorites there for when you need a cleansing Marie Kondo moment.
Then again, that’s not far from where the News Feed is already. And while you can’t make Feeds your default view, you’ll at least be able to pin it to the shortcut bar at the bottom (iOS) or top (Android) of the app when it rolls out globally this week. It may not get you to use Facebook more, but it should make the experience more palatable when you do.