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I can say what has reduced my Facebook use, if anybody in a relevant position at the company is reading. It's the content Facebook shows me.

A decade or so ago, most of the content I saw on Facebook was original content from people I know. Most posts were either text written by someone I knew, or a photo taken by someone I knew. Perhaps not everybody shares this position, but what I most want from Facebook is to keep up with people I actually know. Here are the first 20 posts I see now:

7 shared images from strangers/pages. 1 screenshot from a TV show uploaded by a friend. 1 page updated its website. 1 shared video from strangers/pages. 2 "suggested" videos from a page. 1 photograph taken by a friend. 1 "memory" containing text written by the person who shared it. 3 links to a news story. 3 posts by a page.

That's 2/20 posts of original content from people I know. I've noticed that if I post original content, my friends are less likely to interact with it than a few years ago, probably because they, too are presented with such a huge amount of other content.

I know I can opt in to something like the old experience with the "friends feed" feature. Well, I can on the desktop site (if I bookmark it, click it each time, or use a browser extension); it appears to be missing from the mobile site and the Facebook Lite app. Anything I post is still disadvantaged though, because most people are using the default algorithmic feed.

On Instagram, every one of the first 20 posts I see is original content by a person or page I follow. 16 of those are individual people. I see shared third-party content on Instagram fairly rarely, probably because its UI doesn't encourage that.

What would get me to use Facebook more actively is a change to the algorithm that advantages original content over shared third-party content.

Enjoy insta while it lasts. They are having more and more sponsored posts creep into the feed. I don’t expect this trend to reverse. It’s how they make money.

I have mentioned this before here - instagram ads are a bit too creepy. I have had multiple personal ads that were eerily accurate and I hadn’t even discussed these things over any written form. I’m not paranoid to think they are listening to the microphone but the coincidence is super uncanny. It crossed the line for me twice in the past few months alone.

You should be, the Facebook app explicitly does listen to the mic unless you opt out. It has also come out that Google and Amazon are storing people's personal voice requests, and aside from that the mics are always on waiting to hear the trigger words. This means by default that the apps are listening and analyzing everything, though how much of the non word-triggered speech gets recorded is unknown.

Facebook's initial foray into the app/mic biz was troubled and their statement was "we only listen for popular music / TV in the background in order to help you." It also came out that they mine personal messages between users.

"I’m not paranoid to think they are listening to the microphone but the coincidence is super uncanny."

We need to get past the block where we label people as paranoid for thinking these big corps might invade user's privacy.

The Facebook app, on iPhone at least, requires you to opt in to giving it microphone access.

I've seen the myth that Facebook is targeting ads based on what it hears debunked several times. Do you have a source that shows that it is in fact listening?

I think it's more likely that the same reason someone is talking about something (they're in a demographic interested in that thing) is the reason that Facebook gives you ads for that thing. Add in the Baader-Meinhof effect and it seems like Facebook is listening to your conversations.

I am so frustrated by this "debunking", because it defies logic and experience.

Let's say Facebook NEVER listens to you... I'm 100% on board with them and their honesty. It still doesn't matter.

If you let ANY third party app listen to you, and identify you, for example the latest Candy Crush game, then your information along with preferences are being uploaded to databases for re-targeting.

When I do a big campaign in Facebook, or any sophisticated marketer does, I don't ask Facebook for users who like Cats and are looking for brands of organic cat food. I PROVIDE them a pre-vetted list of people looking for cat food that I generated and the emails associated with those Facebook accounts.

Facebook has NO WAY to know how I came up with my list, and no possible way to find out. It could have been from listening to conversations while someone played Candy Crush, or it could have been from a form submitted on my website.

One of these days I'm just going to actually document myself doing this and publish it to a website so more people understand what is happening and how easy it is to use data from people's conversations.

TLDR: Any time you buy a list of potential customers from a market research company, that data could have been gathered with conversation tracking. It's not Facebook's fault, it's just the reality.

You're not wrong. "Data laundering" is a thing. There's a lot of industry concern around the quality/accuracy of 3rd party data segments from various brokers, DMPs and DSPs, but often times they are complete black boxes in terms of their source data.

same on Android .. and microphone is among the permissions I very rarely give to any app.

Thinking about it, I might just remove it from Google as well since I don't really use voice search.

> The Facebook app, on iPhone at least, requires you to opt in to giving it microphone access.

I just double-checked, and I have mine turned off. So, "requires"?

"You should be, the Facebook app explicitly does listen to the mic unless you opt out."

Evidence? Every time someone claims this it gets debunked.

Give me one reliable source for any of your claims.

I've had the opposite experience with ads on Instagram. It shows me ads for cat products (I don't have a cat), code bootcamps (I have decades of programming experience), and for a while repeatedly showed the same ad for a job as a flight instructor (I have no qualifications for such a job).

You may not have put in anything directly but they have stuff about a lot of the people you follow, recommendations to you and ML that analyzes your habits to better find info about you. Who knows what computers can infer based on all these inputs? At this point they own so much data based on all these connections they likely do not need to listen. It would be good if these companies had to be a little more transparent about how they connect all the dots.

Does the quality of the ads you see really make you confident that they're paying attention to all of these data points and have an amazing algorithm that ties it all together?

For me this only started happening after I offered feedback aka "Don't show me ads like this any more."

Of course I realized shortly thereafter: "Do I really want better targeted ads on my Instagram feed?"

It's a little too late now but if I had to do it over again I would let it guess, mostly poorly, and that makes it easier to filter out the sponsored content.

You can always give it incorrect data to train with :) I've been muting ads from the twitter account of every ad I've seen on twitter and the tweets I get are really, really weird and often more interesting than the tweets it gave me to begin with (because now I'm mostly down to the ads that some random person spent $5 promoting as a joke). But there was a weird 2 month period where twitter was trying to determine what I did want to see and actually had real inventory to play with, and it was hilarious how wrong it would get me sometimes. As far as I can tell, this is the only way to keep your privacy - to confuse the algorithms by overloading them with random data.

Along these lines I don't have a Facebook, have tracker blockers, and other stuff. Spotify used to give me the strangest ads. I'd get some for super cuts. Then an ad about hair loss (I'm under 30 and my dad still doesn't have gray hair). Then ads in Spanish from Jared's (not even dating anyone. Plus these seemed to be targeted at women). Also I'd get TONs of ads for Spotify premium. Those were literally all the ads I got. (stopped using Spotify because after I started paying, maybe those ads worked, their Linux app broke and they said they didn't care about fixing it)

Perhaps other people have been discussing your personal issues in written form?

Honest question. Would you actually rather have them send false hits and hide how much they're tracking?

I ask this because in that infamous Forbes article about Target and the pregnant girl they mention how they now add ads for things they don't think you are interested in, in an effort to creep people out less. (To me this feels a little worse) Plenty of groups do purposefully send false hits to make it less creepy to the target.

Someone did an experiment where they talked Spanish into their phone, cold, and the ads started showing up in Spanish later.

They are all over the place for me. I also get a ton of strange ones that are made to look like regular people just taking pictures of themselves, I guess aspiring models? I don't even engage with IG models...I swear.

Instagram thinks that I have influence over jet fighter buying decisions, they're not that good (despite the invasive methods that they surely use).

I don't know how anyone still uses Instagram. It was an amazing app pre-aquisition, and Facebook managed to completely destroy everything that was good about it

You may believe that, and I'm sure it's true to a certain degree, but Instagram has seen absurd growth since the Facebook acquisition. Without Instagram, Facebook would likely be in a crisis right now over its aging userbase and decelerating growth. The Instagram app is probably nearly as valuable as the Facebook app at this point.

I'm not arguing that it isn't successful, but Facebook still managed to modify it the point that it lost 100% of its usefulness to me.

It was at its best when you could follow accounts, all of the posts of the people you follow would be displayed chronologically, and clicking on a hashtag would also display all posts under that tag chronologically.

Facebook removed the chronological order of the timeline, made it so you will not see all posts from the people you follow, started injecting posts and ads from accounts I do not follow, and did the same with hashtags where you will only see posts facebook decides you should see via their algorithm. Also, engagement with my page decreased 100-500% across the board and my consistent growth stopped entirely as I was not an "influencer" so people that followed me and checked my hashtags would rarely even see my posts

Facebook changed Instagram from an extremely functional social app that allowed you to easily interact with and become parts of niche communities, to a useless ad platform that limits your interactivity and connectivity to anything that you actually want to see to push you to whoever pays Facebook or whatever the algorithm decides what should be popular which ends up being the same garbage content that has plagued Facebook for years

Confirmed. Last time I checked, every 6th post was an ad. Just checked and it’s now every 5th.

There’s several large magazines that are 50% ad content. I bet that’s the ceiling.

Just checked mine. Every third post was a sponsored ad. This is why I have mostly stopped going on Instagram.

I see. It’s at least every fifth for me. An there’s some cases where it’s 3 or 4. Depends on what content they’re sandwiching.

Second post is always an ad. There’s an ad before they tell you you’re all caught up. And it looks like followed tags effect that ratio as well.

For a print publication, maybe.

If you go above 50% ads, some print pages will be ads on both sides, and both may easily be ripped out and discarded--the earliest ad-blocker tech.

Back in the late 80s and 90s, there was the magazine Computer Shopper that was easily 90%+ advertising. It was incredibly popular.

That was because it was the only way people could buy computers that weren't pre-selected by Compaq, Dell or IBM. It was a 100% paid-placement catalog.

Pretty quickly I figured out that articles by Steven J Vaughan-Nichols were worth reading and the rest were generally not. But the ads were what we were looking for.

Adorable that you think they would be satisfied at 50% ad content!

If you have a content blocker turned on in iOS, install the PWA version of Instagram - it will remove all sponsored posts.

The PWA version is almost as good as the native app. It lacks a pull to refresh feature as far as I can tell, but that's not necessarily a bad thing.

What I would love on iOS would be an isolated container like the Multi-account Containers on Firefox desktop. With a PWA, how are the cookies (and local storage) stored and handled? Do they all live with Safari's cookies? Or do they have their own cookie container that's isolated from the rest of the system? If it were the former, I wouldn't want that.

I regularly use Firefox Focus (which is also the system wide content blocker for me), but it doesn't seem like its blocking rules are updated often. Not sure if that's because of some limit in the number of rules allowed per blocking extension.

Great suggestion. It’s actually a pretty solid experience. Only other difference is that it does not auto play videos on feed or story.

Maybe that’s a feature for some though.

Somehow I have zero ads on instagram. I don't know how that happened, but I suspect it has to do with a period of time on facebook where I was just marking every ad as not relevant to me. Everytime I visited, I'd let their system know that any type of ad doesn't suit me.

So maybe that tricked the system? My only other theory would be that they somehow know I wouldn't use the service at all if it had ads. I'm a fickle user who happens to produce some quality, original artwork for their service.

I'm not actually a big fan of Instagram. Its format restrictions and mobile-only upload may be contributing to it having more interesting content for the moment, but I'm convinced Facebook could achieve a more interesting feed by changing the algorithm as well.

I don't mind terribly if there are a few sponsored posts in any of my social media feeds. I suspect the acceptable rate is somewhere around one per five original content posts.

The thing I enjoy most about the sponsored posts is seeing people rip into the product in the comments.

I quit Instagram for a couple of months or so, and came back last week, and now I'm shown one ad every 2-3 posts, no exceptions. It was so overbearing that I started counting, and I did not get a single stretch of more than three posts without an ad thrown in. So I just uninstalled it.

Indeed it seems that half the things I see are sponsored posts when just a year or two, they were few and far between. Also, the quality of the content has decreased dramatically.

I like replying to sponsored posts with comments that the sponsor would probably not classify as a 'positive engagement' ;-)

This has been my experience as well.

Equally annoying are the notifications menu (the actual notifications, I disabled a long time ago). I've been relying on them since the feed is useless but now they too have become cluttered with things like "posts you may have missed".

I would love a platform that is just original content (text and original media), and where any links are just text WITHOUT previews. Kinda like how Twitter used to be… but they seem to be heading in the same direction as FB, just less aggressively.

> I would love a platform that is just original content (text and original media), and where any links are just text WITHOUT previews.

I've got this vague idea in my head of a WordPress plugin that cooperates with other WordPress installations with the plugin, such that your own blog could turn into a social network. So you publish content to your blog, and your blog pulls content from your friends' blogs with the plugin, and you can all comment on each other's posts and stuff. Tack on some kind of slick mobile app for uploading pictures and the like. I dunno.

Did you just invent webrings and RSS?

I think they're reinventing ActivityPub

Indeed, that might be a good fit for the networking layer. So it could be an ActivityPub server/client built on top of WordPress. Quick, someone give me $50M to build a product with zero monetization options.

Hahah! Well, modern tech is all about re-inventing what we already had in the 90s isn't it?

But seriously what I have in mind is a lot more interactive than that. Roughly, your blog becomes your "account". You can follow other "accounts" (blogs), and you give other "accounts" permission to post on your blog in the form of comments, etc. When you change details on your account, like a profile image or whatever, it will get updated on all the linked accounts that follow you. I dunno, it all works pretty elegantly in my head.

Look into the Indieweb[1] and Webmentions[2]. Still really early days, but they're what you're after, I think. Well, if you're talking about commenting on others' posts. I'd think to follow, you'd use RSS or ActivityPub.

[1]: https://indieweb.org/ [2]: https://indieweb.org/Webmention

It was called "trackback", and it never quite solved the spam problem.

My problem with twitter has always been that it tries very hard to discourage content with much depth. There are more ways around the fact that every tweet has to be bite-size than there used to be, and the character limit is higher, but the fundamental model remains the same.

Facebook has taken some steps in the same direction too, hiding any long post or comment behind a "read more" link and offering flashy backgrounds for 130 characters or less (plus enlarged text for 85 characters or less).

This comment doesn't fit in a tweet. It doesn't even fit into two tweets.

The entire purpose of twitter seems to be to say the most outrageous thing possible to gain the most attention and the most retweets and popularity to drive 'engagement'. It is the exact opposite of what I want out of social media. The loudest, most obnoxious voices are the ones I care about the least.

That's how platform would eventually make money. First hook the users on original content then serve the ads until everyone gets tired of that and stops using the app.

I believe that non-comercial social networks like Mastodon are then only places that can consistently show original content without eventually turning bad.

Unfortunately there is not a lot of people hanging out there, personally it's been hard for me to pull my friends away from twitter.

I find that IG has at LEAST as many ads as FB. I use both regularly; I prefer Facebook because of the "community of friends and family" feel to it, but I'm sure I use it less than I used to. Part of the problem for me was engaging with groups more. They're easier to 'ignore' for a week and not feel like you missed anything, and if your feed is more and more group stuff it's easy to feel like you don't have 'time' for it, where the friends+family stuff beckons to me more.

Twitter is basically complete toxic trash and I don't touch it.

I've had a similar experience. Back in the days I used to have interesting talks with a bunch of people from overlapping networks, and met a lot of friends that way. Nowadays I'm just spammed by all the rubbish posted by people I shallowly know while the people I want to keep in touch with are invisible. It's been years since I've actually met somebody interesting on FB. They're actively obfuscating valuable content for their users to force-feed them with content that's valuable to themselves.

Exactly this -- it's gotten to the point for me that anytime I see a post that isn't original, I click the little drop-down arrow (in the upper right-hand corner of the post) and click 'Hide all Posts from [Spammer Name]'.

There's a few friends that I've considered un-following completely because of how many times I've had to do this on their posts. One of them is my brother-in-law -- I called him out on it the last time I saw him, he admitted it's gotten out of hand.

It's baffling how many dumb meme pages there are. But even more baffling, is how many people actually have the motivation to maintain those meme pages. The people that are willingly following them, well, I've lost hope for them.

I'm starting to struggle with this on Twitter. Got frustrated enough to uninstall it a few weeks ago, still haven't put it back (though I continue to be tempted).

So many promoted tweets and the uncanny feeling that my feed is being shaped in strange and unwanted ways.

The straw that broke the camel's back was the banner where twitter declared that it was doing more tracking and targeting so that I would be served better ads, both on AND off of twitter. "Great!", "Learn more" were the two buttons.

I want my mindshare and my thought direction to be in my own control. The feeds are stealing my self control over my own thoughts. I hate it.

If I didn’t have a good third party client (no ads, no sponsored tweets, all chronoligical) I would have left Twitter long ago. I don’t get how people can stand using the official apps.

This happened a while ago and while that was not the reason I quit Facebook it was the reason I hated visiting the site. I distinctly remember trying to raise this feedback. But at the same time I noticed two things - 1) I had more things to look at and there were fresh content every time I went back 2) People shared a lot more. An indication to me that they are spending more time on Facebook. I read it at the time as a lesson on how data backed decisions can be misleading. I’m sure the PMs at Facebook reading the data would have been elated by the increased engagement.

I actually browse Facebook just for the ads. I used to get awful ads on Facebook and then I noticed that my wife had all these fun or interesting ads. Lots of meme-sized content, not just funny stuff but fun baking or crafting videos 30 seconds long. They all said something like “suggested based on posts you’ve interacted with.”

So, I waited and waited and eventually Facebook showed me an interesting ad instead of the non-stop barrage of Blue Apron clones. I interacted with the ad and overnight Facebook ads transformed into a better Reddit.

This resonates with me, but what caused me to definitively stop using the app was the spam notifications which literally cannot be turned off. That was the last straw of user-hostility that made the app too unpleasant to use. I switched off every last email notification in order to keep that stuff out of my email inbox (nothing less was sufficient to stop it), which made it very easy to permanently ignore the app.

I'm sure the spam notifications A/B tested well for engagement though, /eyeroll.

Concerns like these and others people have with FB are surely what repel people away. Although its also something that FB can't fix, even when they are ware of it, due to stakeholders/market that constantly want's a company to make more and more profit. Its the markets infatuations with growth that convert companies into evil, a sad truth for non-community owned companies.

This is what people used to call "selling out". There's no money in original content between friends, facebook doesn't care that they no longer serve this need for you. Their new job is to show ads for fortune 500 companies so that the pension funds invested in the facebook stock can continue to make money.

Of course there's money in original content. You need that to keep people coming back to the feed to make any money on the ads.

What you're seeing is the results of dozens of teams individually optimizing against growth goals, which are actually inputs to a complex system that is difficult to predict.

This is exactly what happens. Each team has their metrics that need to grow. Taken individually, it probably is the right move but when multiple groups optimize their little space, they end up drowning each other.

This is true of any large organization really. It's just that the blind insistence on data at the micro level makes the effect far more profound.

I will spend more time on Facebook, potentially looking at ads it wants to show me if it does a better job keeping me in touch with people I know.

Another thing is Facebook provided options for selecting what to display -- just status, just photos, and something else before this was stripped away. I definitely used to use Facebook similarly to how I use Instagram today.

They could increase engagement if they simply put this back -- providing filters for original content versus external.

I, too, only want to see original content from people I actually care about. However, "care about" is very loose here, because for people with few connections, this probably doesn't matter much, but for users that have many connections and pages, etc, it makes sense to condense and perhaps rank content that a user likes from their connections higher.

Facebook is more of a visual Twitter for me -- people post articles and we have discussions as Twitter's format doesn't facilitate discussions nearly as well.

My FB top-20 (viewed via web page, not app, which I don't use) 6 friends photos, 4 ad, 3 friends post, 3 marketplace listing, 3 memory (from friend’s feed), and 1 “Stories” widget???

<50% is new content from friends. 20% is ads. And 15% is marketplace (groups I can hide, I think). The value proposition isn't all that great.

There are two things keeping me on FB's main app - 1 - parents and other older relatives/friends - 2 - a small number of friends use it for event planning/invites.

Instagram is 100% friends posts (again, webpage, not app). When viewed through the app, Instagram is about 25% ads, with 2 "stories" widgets, and the rest is new content. Slightly better content/noise ratio, but the web page is better.

Exactly this. The only explanation must be that Fb isn’t economically viable with more than a tiny fraction of original content (our friends showing cat pics to us doesn’t make money) but at the same time it isn’t a good product without a much higher, fraction of original content. And if that’s the case then Facebook will implode. My guess is they can’t watch their other apps cannibalize the blue app, so mergers will take place.

That is exactly what made me leave FB in the first place. 90 percent of it was the sheer amount of videos and articles posted over content friends shared. If I wanted news I would have come to Ycombinator or Reddit. I miss seeing what my old friends are up to, but I wouldn't have seen their updates anyway

I want them to give less ads to people who don't click on them.

It won't effect their statistics and a larger group get's ( perhaps) a little bit less demotivated to go on Facebook.

The people that click on all says ads, nothing changes.

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