“Dear Costaconnected,

I am fairly new to Facebook and just use it to keep in touch with family and friends. I have recently joined a couple of “Facebook groups”, and I am enjoying the chat there – but I am confused because things in the groups are showing up on my main Facebook page – and I thought it was only for people in the group themselves. My other friends and family won’t be interested in that, and it’s not very private. What have I misunderstood here?”

Dear Reader,

If your main use of Facebook to date has been directly interacting with a small group of friends, it might not be obvious exactly how the different elements of the site work and display together. Adding in the use of groups complicates stuff slightly, but it is easy to get the hang of.

The most important thing to grasp is that the newsfeed – what you see on the root/home page, facebook.com, when you log in – is absolutely unique to you, and NOT what everybody else sees. It depends entirely on what you have told Facebook to show you, such as the items shared by your friends, or by Pages you have liked. It also depends quite a bit on what Facebook in its infinite wisdom wants to show you. So at every moment it refreshes, but the exact content will be completely different for every user depending on their profile and history.

unique facebook view

This is very different from your personal profile or Timeline, or what some users incorrectly refer to as “their page” – which is what you see when you (or anybody else) click on your name where it appears next to your profile picture, anywhere in the site, or by clicking on your photo in the top right of the screen. That name is actually link to a separate page with a URL something like facebook.com/yourname (possibly with some numbers and stuff), and this is your personal ‘home’ on the site.

What you see on your profile is your cover picture, your profile picture, and things that you have posted, or which others have posted directly to you individually. You can see lists of your friends, your photos, Likes, and so on. You will see your ‘About’ information too, all this is on the left column now, with your personal feed of posts or things shared to you only appearing top-down on the right.

What others see when they click there is whatever you have chosen to make public, which could be as little as your cover photo and profile picture, or you can choose to make posts and other information such as your friend list or ‘About’ data display to anyone passing. As this is potentially 1.4bn people who could find you by searching for your name as well as clicking on it, think about what you want to display here.

You can check your privacy settings by clicking the little padlock in the top right on any screen in Facebook, and you can also quickly view your profile info publicly displayed by clicking on the three dots in the bottom right of your big cover picture, and selecting ‘view as’ – this enables you to see what a non-friend sees, when they click on your name on Facebook. Remember you have very detailed control over your About information so this might be a timely reminder to review it and consider removing anything that makes you vulnerable to identity theft (like your date of birth – you can still publish this without the year, so you get birthday greetings from your friends on Facebook!)

But going back to the newsfeed, when you go to facebook.com, what you see depends on so many different factors. When you start off at Facebook and don’t have many friends and haven’t joined groups or liked brands, you will pretty much see everything your friends post at all, in direct chronological order.

As things become more crowded and complicated, Facebook curates your newsfeed via algorithms which advertisers and managers of brand Pages spend considerable resource trying to second-guess, but it’s important to realise you won’t see everything, unless you do an insane amount of scrolling.

Firstly, Facebook will shove sponsored posts into your newsfeed, especially things your friends have Liked or interacted with, and which are often supposed to be something an advertiser thinks you are likely to be attracted to. How this is arrived at is sometimes impossible to guess, but your eye gets used to screening it out.

Secondly, Facebook decides what order to show you things that your friends or people/brands you follow have posted – their algorithms are top-secret of course, but when it comes to your friends, you are more likely to see things that are posted recently, and that already have some engagement on them – that is, lots of likes and comments. These bits of content Facebook decide are intrinsically more interesting or important and they get floated back up to the top. It can mean that you see a particularly interesting (in Facebook’s opinion) item more than once, especially if you like or comment on it and then other people do so afterwards.

In your newsfeed you may also see posts from groups which Facebook has decided are important. This is clearly what the writer of this letter is seeing. If you have hundreds of friends and liked Pages you will tend to see less of this as Facebook often down-grades group posts in relative importance, but you may see posts that your friends have made or engaged with, or that lots of people have commented on, for example.

Just remember though that you are seeing this in your personal newsfeed, and nobody else is seeing them.

Lots more about Facebook of course on http://costaconnected.com, where everything is archived. Thanks for reading!

Costa Connected, for Costa Blanca News, April 10th 2015

©Maya Middlemiss,  Casslar Consulting SL

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