Do you know how your Facebook timeline is constructed?
Did you know the Facebook timeline is not as straight forward as you may think? You may think that the timeline you see when you open Facebook either via your web browser or through your Facebook app would display posts, status updates, adverts, events, etc.. in chronological order. You would have thought that they would be ordered in a manner where you get to see what happened sooner rather than the previous day’s events first. You may have thought that it would be as straight forward as that. Unfortunately, it is not.
I did a quick 30 post analysis of my timeline to try and see how non-chronological it is. Below is the summary of my timeline. I’ve removed the names of friends, businesses, advertising companies, event names and the posts themselves. All you can see is the type of post, who was involved and the time when Facebook said it was posted. The top of the list was the first post that I saw.
- Friend commented on a post they liked posted by another friend (20 hours ago)
- Friend liked a page (40 mins ago)
- Sponsored advert
- Post from a page I like (from yesterday – 15 hours ago)
- Post from a page I like (from yesterday – 28 hours ago)
- Check in overseas (16 mins ago)
- Competition from a business that other friends like (Sponsored ad)
- Friend was tagged in a pic (2 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (1 min ago)
- Photo posted by a friend with another friend tagged in (pic from yesterday 18 hrs)
- Link shared by a friend (2 hrs ago)
- Event shared by a friend (2 hrs ago)
- Friend commented on a business page they like (from yesterday – 22 hours ago)
- Post from a page I like (2 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (1 hr ago – same page as line above)
- Post from a page I like (from yesterday – 20 hours ago)
- Post from a friend (2 mins ago)
- Sponsored advert
- Post from a friend to an open group (from yesterday – 14 hrs ago)
- Friend shared a video (5 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (4 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (9 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (12 hrs ago – Same page as 2 above)
- Post from a page I like (58 mins ago)
- Friend was tagged in a photo (from yesterday – 20 hrs ago)
- Post from a page I like (5 hrs ago)
- Friend commented on a post they liked from another friend (5 hrs)
- Friend shared a business page they like (50 mins)
- Friend likes a business page (from yesterday – 27 hrs ago)
- Friend replies to a comment (from yesterday – 20 hrs ago)
What is in these 30 posts?
Content wise, out of 30 posts, there were 3 sponsored posts, 11 posts from business pages I like, 4 shares (1 business page, 1 video, 1 event, 1 link), 1 check in at a location, 9 activities by friends (friend comments on a post 4, friend likes a page 2, friend tagged in a pic 2, friend replies to a comment 1), and just TWO status updates from friends – one a post and one a photo being posted.
It is quite alarming that 12 of those activities weren’t anything to do with us – the 3 sponsored posts and the 9 activities by friends – comments and liking pages and seeing that they are tagged in a photo. If nearly a third of posts are relating to things whatever other people are doing, it is a bit creepy to find out that others see so much of that. Creepier still that Facebook thinks we want to spend a third of our time effectively watching other people rather than doing things ourselves. Maybe they have decided that the gossip mentality is increasingly taking over many people’s lives.
Are they in order though?
Timeline wise, these 30 posts seem to be in a very bizarre order. There are posts from the previous day, up to 27 hours ago and the order of posts is all over the place. No wonder people find it difficult to keep up to date with what their friends are posting and when. Keeping an eye on their own timeline isn’t going to be the best way to find out time sensitive information. If you are waiting to know that someone has finished a race or has arrived at a destination safely, waiting for their check in or photo or status update isn’t going to be the best way to find out. It could be the following day when you get to see it! For businesses wanting to promote their ‘meal of the day’ or ‘offer of the day’ via their Facebook page, or their special news from the day, they will have big problems getting their business posts seen on the desired day due to these algorithms. The preference of Facebook is that they would like advertisers to pay to promote their posts and give them money for the privilege too of course. For charities and small community groups, this is often not an option though, so are at the mercy of Facebook as to when and where their posts get displayed.
Power gained by mass usage
Facebook is a massive organisation, they have so much power and so much data that we volunteer to them. Facebook will always be free to personal users I believe, as it is the audience that they are creating for the businesses and organisations who are willing to pay to access this audience. It is a completely different animal from when many of us started using this social media network. I don’t believe that we have seen the last wave of changes that Facebook are bringing in, but the lack of a chronological timeline is not a good thing. Users as the audience, want to be able to scroll through posts in a sensible, logical manner. In a way, that if they were reading a book, they don’t see chapter seven before they see chapter four. A timeline should not be called a timeline if it is a ‘seemingly’ randomised collection of any posts at any time from an unknown and unpublished set of algorithms.
Please note that Facebook does offer you the option to temporarily see most recent posts rather than the ‘most popular’ posts. This is their response when asked why their timelines weren’t chronological any more.
By default, News Feed shows the most popular stories first. To temporarily view stories by most recent: Click Home at the top of Facebook. Hover over the News Feed tab in the left side menu and click . Select Most Recent.
What are your thoughts on how you see posts and status updates on Facebook? Please leave a comment below to let me know.