More people look at your Facebook posts then ‘Like’ and ‘Share’ them. That’s a fact that everyone is vaguely aware of, but it might surprise you to know that Facebook tested a feature that would tell you how many people saw your posts, and decided that people didn’t want it. According to Facebook engineer Lars Backstrom, the call was made that users wouldn’t be interested in how many people saw the content they passed along — just how many reacted to it. “People are way more interested in seeing *who* liked their posts, rather than just the number of people who saw it,” he said in a Facebook post of his own.
Backstrom, who works on Facebook’s News Feed, was responding to a recent BuzzFeed article by Charlie Warzel that suggested Facebook is deliberately concealing information on page views from its users. The BuzzFeed article’s conclusion was that “It’s in the interest of services like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter to protect you from the very real possibility that your “friends” are out there and they can see what you’re doing, but they just don’t care.”
Warzel also suggested that the only people who are given this kind of information are advertisers, which Backstrom pointed out is untrue, since anyone who operates Groups and Pages on Facebook can also look at page views — for example, we see how many people see posts to the Geekosystem Facebook page, which helps us know what articles you’re interested in, and what you’re not. “That’s because these people care about how many people see these posts; everyday users — not so much,” Backstrom wrote. Even though the feature would be simple to implement, he said it wasn’t worth the space on a page for the average person.
Backstrom also addressed another hidden element of Facebook — the News Feed, which functions on a somewhat enigmatic ranking algorithm to determine where posts show up on your Facebook feed. He said that tests showed that “any time we stop ranking and show posts in chronological order, the number of stories people read decreases and the amount of likes and comments people produce decreases.”
It’s possible, and yes, even likely, that Facebook doesn’t want you to know how many people saw your post and decided not to ‘Like’ it. But even if Backstrom is right, and Facebook has no ulterior motives here, it’s an interesting point. Social media is all about engagement; does it matter if you view something but don’t respond? The Internet can easily collect exact figures on how many people read what you wrote, or looked at your pictures, or ‘unfriended’ you, but do you really want to know?
On the other hand, do you really want a big, faceless corporation covertly shielding your feelings from being hurt?
- The consequences of unfriending everyone on Facebook
- Facebook ended sponsored stories to everyone’s relief
- Who needs the News Feed when you can navigate Facebook by hashtag?