Whenever I go to Facebook, I tend to see the same people on top of my newsfeed (I love you all.) and a lot of (almost) strangers. I met some of them a few years back, made the connection, never to see them again. I know what they are doing each day, what hotel they are staying, what song they are listening to.
But I often don’t see my own wife. Or my best friend.
There’s mounting evidence that Facebook is making assumptions about me – without asking.
Those (false assumptions) are shaping who else I see, meet and talk with and I find that deeply problematic.
Last weekend, while watching football, I went through all my Facebook friends and clicked on the forgotten ones. The ones that I normally don’t see. The ones that I miss. My friends. I was hoping that clicking on their profile would change the algorithm and let Facebook know that I care about these people. Nothing changed. I still see the usual suspects. And the strangers.
Personalization can be very convenient and useful. But it can also be wrong and damaging. Personalization may find you lots of what you like, but look at the ads that you see. They are based on similar assumptions. On my page, it’s the request to like Michelle Obama, some crappy brain enhancing formula and the request to like Kia. I don’t care about Michelle Obama that much, my brain functions very well, thank you very much, and don’t get me started on Kia.
Assumptions behind personalization are wrong all too often.
Those assumptions will push you in a direction that you may not want to head into. I don’t mind reading about strangers but the reason for investing time in Facebook was to stay close to family and friends, wasn’t it? Facebook should offer the option of opting in and give me more freedom. They can ask each of us to confirm assumptions they are making.
Of course they won’t. It’s inconvenient to them in their haste to assume they know what is convenient to us and what is not.
It will get worse.
Rumor says, Facebook will try to get public next year. This will increase the pressure on the platform to improve monetization. The algorithm will be changed to improve opportunities for brands to connect with us. We’ll see more brands/advertising/marketing and less friends. Makes sense for Facebook. Not so much for us.