Whether you use Facebook for personal reasons or business (or a combination of both), I’d like to take a moment to explain to you how it has recently changed in a way that is quite troubling to me.
Do you know what Facebook Interest Lists are? In short, they were a way to create lists of Facebook Pages. For example, you might make a list of funny mom bloggers and name it “Funny Mom Bloggers” so whenever you need a laugh, you can click on that Interest List and scroll through the feed of JUST those Pages.
I have been singing the praises of Facebook Interest Lists for years now, often discovering how few people ever heard of them, when I bring them up during presentations at conferences, among other writers, or when talking with friends. They’ve been a top tool of mine as a writer, for I can create lists for each topic I might want to write about, and they’ve been a great way to check in with my just favorite blogs/websites when I’m short on time. They kept Facebook from feeling overwhelming, and allowed me to be more organized about what I read when I wanted to read it.
More importantly, Facebook Interest Lists made sure my Facebook feed was diverse.
And now the feature is gone.
Facebook is set up to only show stuff they think we’ll most likely want to see.
Translation: we are not shown every single post by every single Facebook Page we follow in real time each time we log on. Nope, we’re shown a selection of posts by the Facebook Pages that Facebook BELIEVES we most likely want to see, and my experience has been that they seem to think I only want to see content by people exactly like me: a straight white married mother.
To ensure I saw posts by people of color in my feed on Facebook, I had to create a Facebook Interest List and check in on it every day (I named it “Diverse Portfolio” for a reason) – despite the fact that I was following many, many Facebook Pages featuring people of color and interacting with those Pages regularly. Otherwise, my feed was White Ladies White Ladies Hey Look More White Ladies. (Ditto the LGBTQ community, non-parents, and men: pretty much M.I.A. in my main feed, despite my regular interaction.)
In my opinion, it is FAR too simple to assume that people most enjoy reading Facebook posts by others who are exactly like them. I feel the tug of emotional threads in stories I relate to even when I’m not like the person who wrote them at all, and those are the kinds of stories I love discovering on Facebook. An emotional connectivity that makes me feel less alone, makes the world a little smaller, that reminds me that we’re all more alike than certain people in the world might try to persuade others to believe. I also like to hear things I don’t agree with from people who have different beliefs than me. I like to learn from that, try to understand them, keep my mind open (or at least keep my eye on those who might need close watching).
I know I’m not the only one who feels this way.
What troubles me here is that when people are only shown opinions and experiences that are exactly like their own (with some exceptions, like paid sponsored posts and viral posts that get pushed in front of them) on Facebook (a thing they check in on all day long), they live in a bubble. That bubble can quickly morph from a comfortable place where you enjoy familiar faces to a place where one becomes ignorant to all the other things going on around him/her. If one is not exposed to differing opinions, experiences, lifestyles, how can cultural empathy ever even have a chance?
With Facebook Interest Lists I was able to get around that bubble, ensuring that I was seeing posts by everyone I wanted to see (and a heck of a lot of those people are not carbon copies of me), then share those voices with my audience. Without it, I fear I will yet again lose out on discovering all the stories by people who don’t fall in the exact same “categories” as I do. And for that, I am mourning the far too sudden loss of Facebook Interest lists.
Now more than ever, we need a feature like this: one that allows us to be certain to not miss the important voices and stories that are absolutely not getting the amplification they deserve, and makes it easier for diversity to become a part of everyone’s lives online.
Want to join me in begging Facebook to bring it back? Click on “Feedback about a feature” here and ask nicely for them to bring back Facebook Interest Lists: https://www.facebook.com/help/feedback/
I’ll cross my fingers and hope the powers that be over at Facebook hear our plea, and bring Interest Lists back. And if they do? I promise to write up a tutorial to show you all how to use it in order to make sure you’re seeing everyone you want to see, too.
Kim Bongiorno is an author, full time freelance writer, and the blogger behind Let Me Start By Saying. You can find her on Facebook and Twitter, hire her to write for you or speak at your event, or buy her a tall soy vanilla latte because they are delicious.