Why you should “like” things… Including this post.

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Liking matters on Facebook… and any other platform that uses a news feed algorithm for that matter.

When people “like” something, it can mean many different things.  It can literally mean you like something.  Sometimes it’s to indicate thoughts of sympathy or empathy (something that you don’t really literally like, per se).  Sometimes it just indicates that you’ve read something or you acknowledge it.  Regardless of how you use it, liking matters.  It actually impacts what you see in your newsfeed.

As you connect to more and more people on social networks, it becomes increasingly hard to sift through all of the posts, updates and tweets.  As a solution to this, some social networks try to “help you out” by using an algorithm to surface more important, interesting or useful information from people you care most about.  Twitter is a great example of a social network that doesn’t use an algorithm.  Everything is in a real-time list.  Everything.  It can be a little overwhelming if you try to read it all.  Facebook, recognizing this problem, employs an algorithm.  Certain posts may rise to the top or show up and it’s all tailored to you.

But who’s “the decider” on what this algorithm privileges?

On this front, it’s Facebook HQ, and although there are some details about what this algorithm privileges, it’s not entirely clear.  Facebook recently modified it’s algorithm to add a couple of variables.  Broadly speaking, your newsfeed privileges:

  • How much you’ve interacted with similar types of spots in the past
  • Posts from people/pages you interact with most frequently
  • Posts you didn’t scroll down far enough to see, but are still getting lots of likes and comments
  • Topics that are trending Facebook-wide
  • Newer content (posts have a decay-rate)
  • The number of likes/comments a post receives and the rate at which they are received

Let’s say I post this blog entry to Facebook, and you read it, and enjoy it.  When you like it on Facebook, you’re not just telling me you like it, but you’re also telling the algorithm you like it, and you’re also telling others about it because it is more likely to appear in their news feeds.  If you don’t use the like button, then this post is far more likely to float into social media obscurity.  (And why would you want to do that?! 🙂 )

“Liking” isn’t just a solitary act.
“Liking” something ensures you’ll see more post similar to it and that others will see it.

Now, the above two statements assume that you want the algorithm (and by extension, Facebook) to know this information about you.  They also have a built-in assumption that the algorithm always works the way you would wish it to.  Two individuals did some “algorithm experiments” where one liked everything in their feed for two days and the other quit liking anything for two weeks.  Their results were quite interesting.

No algorithm will ever be perfect, and it’s a little scary to think about the implications of having your news access decided for you by someone else, but at the same time it’s helpful to have something/someone helping us manage this explosion of information.  Next time you think to “like” something or not… think about these implications.

Oh!  And while you’re at it… like this post. 😉

How do you use the like button?
How do you feel about an algorithm making decisions for you?

Image source: moviepilot