Facebook Tip of the Week: The ‘Top Stories’ vs. ‘Most Recent’ Kerfuffle Explained

This week’s Facebook Tip of the Week deals with one of the most frequent questions I hear about using Facebook: “Why do I have to keep changing my News Feed to show the Most Recent stories?”

I can help with that, and there’s some good news on the way, but first, let me explain that question for people who aren’t sure what it means.

Your News Feed is the base stream of updates you see from your friends, from Pages you’ve liked, and from Promoted pages.

Well, the plain truth is, there is no physically possible way for Facebook to show you every update from every Friend and Page you’ve liked in your News Feed. There are too many. So the program has to try and decide which updates you most want to see and focus on those. But Facebook is also business, and they use our News Feeds to make money. Natch. Hence the “Promoted” posts. In addition to calculating which posts you’ll most likely want to see, they calculate which ads you’re most likely to respond to, and those go into your “Top Stories” as well.

“Top Stories” is what you see when you first open Facebook. But most people are really annoyed by the Top Stories feed. The posts aren’t necessarily in chronological order, and they’re ad-heavy. Most people would rather just see all their Friends’ posts in order – so they switch to “Most Recent” option. This changes the News Feed mode so you see the newest posts from the Friends and Pages you interact with most often.

It’s important to realize you’re still not seeing ALL your Friends’ posts in your “Most Recent” News Feed. Again, there are too many. Those posts still exist – they’re just sorted into other Lists (or news feeds with different titles.)

Everyone Loves Cupcakes.

Everyone Loves Cupcakes.

Here’s where you have to get brave. Venture off the middle of your screen and have a look at your sidebar. You’ll see a variety of Lists here – your town, your school, your workplace, “Close Friends,” “Acquaintances,” Groups you’re in, etc. These are all News Feeds as well, with more specific groups of people in them. If you click on one of these, you will get a brand new News Feed, with chronological posts from only the Friends and Pages on that list.

A-ha! So this is where Facebook has been shelving all of Cousin Bertha’s Instagram pics of lumpy cupcakes!

All of these lists are editable, and another handy feature, if time consuming, is the ability to make lists of your very own. List making is really useful (and potentially important for internet security,) so it will receive its very own Facebook Tip entry next Monday.

So, the short answer is, we all start in “Top Stories” because that’s what Facebook is guessing we want to see. It’s trying. It means well. But the good news is, we don’t have to stay there. Switch to “Most Recent,” or use individual lists, which are even better.

The good news is that Facebook is very soon (yet again) reorganizing the way your screen looks and works, so that switching between Lists will be easier and more intuitive. Your News Feed will continue to default to “Top Stories,” although that name will go away. The new list menu will be larger, easier to find and navigate, and feature a lot more flexibility. It’s wide and takes the place of the annoying “ticker” where you currently spy on what your friends are doing. You can still choose “Most Recent” in the list options, but you can also choose “All Friends” (finally) or “Music” or “Games” lists, or any others you may have. You can add and delete lists from this menu. There’s also a new “Following” list — just for people and Pages you follow but don’t personally interact with. It’s pretty cool. I approve.

It can be really frustrating to poke at all these menus and buttons when all you want to do is hop on Facebook, find out who your sister is dating today, wish your aunt’s dog a Happy Birthday, and hop back off again. Once you get the hang of flipping between the lists, though, you’ll see more posts from more people and Pages, and get more out of your Facebook.

Hope that’s helpful. Drop me a line if you’ve got a Facebook question you’d like me to answer.

(BTW: Next Monday is Memorial Day, and it’s hard to type with a Bratwurst and a beer in your hands, so expect next week’s Facebook tip on Tuesday. Be safe, and happy almost-summer!)