Your Facebook news feed is about to undergo a massive change

The social media behemoth wants you to use their platform less, not more, than before. 

There’s a good chance you accessed this article from Facebook.

The social media giant has, after all, made it easier than ever for companies to bring their content to users’ news feeds. It’s revolutionized the way media create, package, and publish articles and videos. It’s also allowed for the flourishing of massive amounts of “junk food” content, as The New York Times called it. (Think “prank” videos, actual fake news, and relentless legions of meme pages.)

But all of that could change soon. On January 11, Mark Zuckerberg published a statement on his Facebook page that outlines upcoming tweaks to the website’s algorithms. Basically, you can expect your feed to begin showing you less news and promotional content, and more posts from friends and family. It’s a decision based on research into the effects social media has on well-being, Zuckerberg said:

“We feel a responsibility to make sure our services aren’t just fun to use, but also good for people's well-being. So we've studied this trend carefully by looking at the academic research and doing our own research with leading experts at universities.

The research shows that when we use social media to connect with people we care about, it can be good for our well-being. We can feel more connected and less lonely, and that correlates with long term measures of happiness and health. On the other hand, passively reading articles or watching videos -- even if they're entertaining or informative -- may not be as good.”

Drew Angerer via Getty Images

It’s not the first time the company has addressed the adverse effects of social media use. In December 2017, Facebook issued a blog post outlining the pros and cons of using social media. On the positive side, the post said that interacting with close friends and family—reminiscing on past events, sharing photos, catching up with people—“brings us joy and strengthens our sense of community.”

On the negative, it highlighted research that suggests even small amounts of Facebook use can worsen users’ mood and mental health, and lead to unhealthy social comparison. Other research suggests that social media use can reduce face-to-face interaction, contribute to a sedentary lifestyle, and reduce investment in meaningful activities.

Facebook’s December blog post came just days after ex-Facebook executive Chamath Palihapitiya told CNBC that Facebook was starting to “erode the social fabric of how society works.” Palihapitiya’s main arguments were that Facebook is creating a society that confuses truth with popularity—basically, whichever ideological message has more money behind it wins. He also criticized the company for intentionally causing users to become addicted to its platform by providing a never-ending loop of social feedback. 

“That feedback, chemically speaking, is the release of dopamine in your brain,” Palihapitiya said. “I think if you get too desensitized and you need it over and over and over again, then you become actually detached from the world in which you live.”

Jewel Samad via Getty Images

Tristan Harris, an entrepreneur and computer scientist, echoed a similar sentiment in an interview with Big Think:

“...We find ourselves in this kind of wormhole and then we say, ‘Oh man, like, I should really have more self-control.’ And that's partially true, but what we forget when we talk about it that way is that there's a thousand engineers on the other side of the screen whose job it was to get my finger to do that the next time. And there's this whole playbook of techniques that they use to get us to keep using the software more.”

Sean Parker, an early Facebook investor and the founder of Napster, said Facebook was designed to be addictive from the start.

“The inventors, creators—it's me, it's Mark [Zuckerberg], it's Kevin Systrom on Instagram, it's all of these people—understood this consciously,” Parker said at an Axios event. “And we did it anyway.”

Facebook’s long game

Facebook’s stock dropped about 4 percent the day after the announcement. Still, some analysts feel it will prove to be a smart move in the big picture.

“We see this as the right long-term decision for the platform and, over the near-term, doubt that this will have a material impact on revenue,” said Samuel Kemp, senior Internet research analyst at asset management firm Piper Jaffray, to CNBC.

In an interview with The New York Times, Zuckerberg said that Facebook and its users will likely benefit in the long run—even if some users start looking elsewhere for viral content.

“I expect the time people spend on Facebook and some measures of engagement will go down,” he said in his post about the changes. “But I also expect the time you do spend on Facebook will be more valuable.”

Despite the changes, users will still be able to customize the kinds of content that appear in their news feed. But left to default settings, posts from friends and family will rise to the top. A video published by Facebook explains how the new algorithms will prioritize content.


Tesla introduces new Model 3 at $45,000

The new version's battery has a shorter range and a price $4,000 lower than the previous starting price.

Tesla Model 3 (Photo: Tesla)
Technology & Innovation
  • Tesla's new version of the Model 3 costs $45,000 and can travel 280 miles on one charge.
  • The Model 3 is the best-selling luxury car in the U.S.
  • Tesla still has yet to introduce a fully self-driving car, even though it once offered the capability as an option to be installed at a future date.
Keep reading Show less

Relationship hack: Why class clowns make better partners

Want a happy, satisfying relationship? Psychologists say the best way is to learn to take a joke.

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash
Sex & Relationships
  • New research looks at how partners' attitudes toward humor affects the overall quality of a relationship.
  • Out of the three basic types of people, people who love to be laughed at made for better partners.
  • Fine-tuning your sense of humor might be the secret to a healthy, happy, and committed relationship.
Keep reading Show less

Number of American parents not vaccinating infants has quadrupled

A measles comeback is not the sort of return our children deserve.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 04: An influenza vaccination is prepared for a patient at the CVS Pharmacy store's MinuteClinic on October 4, 2018 in Miami, Florida. CVS stores will provide flu vaccinations at their MinuteClinic as well as the pharmacy and according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics between now and the end of October is the best time to get vaccinated as the flu season begins. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • The percentage of children under 2 years old who haven't received any vaccinations has quadrupled in the last 17 years.
  • In 2016 in Europe there were 5,273 cases of measles. One year later that jumped to 21,315 cases.
  • Discredited doctor Andrew Wakefield's false study linking vaccines and autism still influences parents, two decades later.
Keep reading Show less

42 percent of new cancer patients lose their life savings

A new study delivers the dark financial reality of cancer.

Photo: Ken Treloar / Unsplash
Politics & Current Affairs
  • 62 percent of cancer patients report being in debt due to their treatment.
  • 55 percent accrue at least $10,000 in debt, while 3 percent file for bankruptcy.
  • Cancer costs exceed $80 billion in America each year.
Keep reading Show less

South African city to seize private land without paying in 'test case'

"Expropriation without compensation" is meant to address the nation's stark inequalities in wealth and land ownership.

An informal settlement in Johannesburg (Photo: Matt-80)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • Since the end of apartheid, South Africa has seized private land from citizens but always compensated owners.
  • The new proposal is a more radical approach to correcting apartheid-era inequality.
  • However, South Africa's constitution still requires the government to compensate land owners, so it's unclear how the government's seizure of private property without pay would play out in courts.
Keep reading Show less
Technology & Innovation
  • A Larry Page-backed company has announced that its flying car will go on sale in 2019.
  • It's called the BlackFly.
  • Not quite the escape from traffic you had in mind, but it's a jaw-dropping start.
Keep reading Show less

Where the water wars of the future will be fought

A new report warns about the increasing likelihood of international conflicts over water.

Abd al-Ibrahim, whose home was destroyed during fighting, as he rests on his trip to supply water to his family at the house they are squatting in the northern Syrian city of Raqa. October 15, 2018. (Photo credit: DELIL SOULEIMAN/AFP/Getty Images)
Politics & Current Affairs
  • A study finds that serious conflicts over water are going to arise around the globe.
  • The 5 hotspots identified by the paper include areas of the Nile, Ganges-Brahmaputra, Indus, Tigris-Euphrates, and Colorado rivers.
  • It's still possible to change course if we are prepared to address the effects of climate change.
Keep reading Show less
A Star Is Born, Warner Bros Pictures
Surprising Science
  • It has to do with two parts of the brain, both of which are thicker in those with better smell and spacial recognition.
  • Your nose can detect about 1 trillion smells.
  • While your nose isn't a full GPS, it can help you pick out a general direction.
Keep reading Show less