News Feed for Facebook
News Feed is the centerpiece of your Home page. When you log in to Facebook, you see the familiar blue bar on top and the left-side menu but mostly you see News Feed.
So what is the News Feed? It’s a constantly updating list of stories by and about your friends. Stories here refers to actions that your friends have taken on Facebook — things like writing a status update, sharing a photo or link, or fundraising for charity (in fact, there are a lot of different types of stories that are all detailed below in the “Common story types” section).
You may also see stories from Pages that you follow. Facebook sometimes refers to stories as posts, and I use the terms interchangeably here as well. Back in the day, a common refrain around the Facebook office was, “News Feed is a robot.”
More accurately, the News Feed is an algorithm. It doesn’t show you everything from your friends; instead, it tries to show you things it thinks you will find interesting. News Feed makes its selections based on a complicated calculus of who is posting what and when.
News Feed will likely show you more stories from people you interact with more often on Facebook. It also tends to show you “big events” like engagements or new babies even from more distant acquaintances. News Feed also learns the sorts of stories you are likely to click on, like, or comment on, and will try to show you more of those.
Simply browsing News Feed and interacting with the things you see helps News Feed to improve. There are ways for you to manually fine-tune News Feed as well, which I cover in the “Adjusting News Feed” section. In this blog, we have to explain the News Feed for Facebook 2018
Because News Feed tries to show you what it thinks you’ll find most interesting, stories might not always appear from newest to oldest. There is some bias toward new stories (especially if you log into Facebook frequently), but you might see a popular photo that a friend posted several days ago appear at the top of your News Feed instead of one from this morning if it got a lot of likes or comments.
Additional likes or comments can also cause a post to reappear in your News Feed even if you’ve already seen it.
Anatomy of a News Feed story
In this case, it’s a status update from a friend. In the Facebook world, a status update refers to any text people post that answers the question “What’s on your mind?” Even in this tiny example, there are lots of things to pay attention to, though the first things you’ll probably pick up on when you’re scanning News Feed are “who” and “what”:
The first part of any story is who it’s about or who wrote it. Both the name and picture are links to that person’s Timeline. In addition, if you hover the mouse cursor over a person’s name, you’ll see a miniaturized preview of the person’s Timeline with information about your relationship (that you are friends and following her, in most cases) as well as a button you can click to message her.
Hovering the mouse cursor over any bolded text in a News Feed story generates a preview for a Timeline, Page, or interest with specific buttons for adding friends, liking, or following.
The content section of a News Feed story is the most variable. It might be a preview of an article, or a video, or a photo album. It could also be a location where someone has checked in or marked her location (the Golden Gate Bridge, her local coffee shop, etc.) when she posted. The content is the part of the story that is the most important; it’s the whole reason for the story existing.
After you’ve got the basics and who and what down, you can focus on some of the other details to be found in a simple status update:
Not every status includes this, but Facebook provides a list of emotions and activities that can be appended to any status update or post. In this case, the emoji (and words) depict that I was “feeling hungry” when I wrote this status update.
Tags are a way of marking who or what is with you when you post something to Facebook. You might tag a person who is with you when you write a post, or you might tag a TV show you are watching. Tags in posts are displayed as links in blue text. You can hover the mouse cursor over these tags to view more info about that person, Page, place, or thing.
The little gray text near the profile photo in the post tells you how long ago this post was added.
The gray icon next to the timestamp represents the privacy of that post. Hover the mouse cursor over the icon to see who else can see the post. Usually, posts are visible either to everyone (Public) or just to that person’s friends.
Like, Comment, and (Share):
These links allow you to interact with your friends about the content they’ve posted. In addition, you can see how many people have already liked a post, and you can see any comments that have been made in the post itself.
You may also see a text box next to your own profile picture prompting you to “Write a comment . . . .” I talk more about commenting, liking, and sharing in the “Interacting with News Feed” section later.
Common story types
News Feed is made up of all sorts of stories. Although the basic anatomy is the same, here are some of the common story types you might encounter:
Status updates: Status updates are the short little posts that your friends make about what’s going on in their lives.
Links: This is one of the chief ways I get my news: Friends share links to articles, and the previews are so interesting to me I have to read the whole article. Click the links (or the article’s title) to go to the articles.
Photos and Videos: When people add photos or are tagged in photos, Facebook creates this type of story, with information about who was tagged and a sample of the photos that were added.
You can include videos in photo albums (the “Play” arrow indicates a video). Click the photos or videos to see bigger versions, browse albums, and watch videos.
Live Videos: Live Videos are just what they sound like — videos that are being streamed live from wherever the poster is. You might see a friend streaming live video from the tide pools she is exploring, or you might see live video from a celebrity at a red-carpet event.
Many news organizations share live video feeds of formal press conferences, as well as more casual live videos of behind the scenes footage. Hover the mouse cursor over the video to display the video’s progress bar and other controls. Click the volume icon to turn on the sound and tune in.
Timeline Posts: In the example here, Carolyn wrote the message on Steve’s Timeline.
Group and event posts: When people post to a group or event you’re a member of, it may show up in your News Feed. These stories look very similar to the Timeline posts; the second friend’s name is simply replaced with the group or event name.
Life Events: People can create Life Events from their Timelines. These events can be for an event as small as buying a new pair of sunglasses, but in my experience, people use them to mark big moments: weddings, babies, moving, getting a pet, buying a house, and other things that tend to be truly major developments in one’s life.
Check-ins: A check-in is a way of marking where you are. Stories about check-ins show a map of their location, as well as a preview of information about the location where that person checked in. They also may show a list of other friends who have checked in there in the past.
Tags: Stories about tags let you know what photos or posts your friends have recently been tagged in and include a preview of the photos with your friend in them. Because of the way tags work, you may be seeing photos or posts that were added by someone who is not your friend.
Likes and comments: Stories about likes and comments let you know what Pages, posts, or articles your friends have liked or commented on recently. Usually whatever your friend has interacted with is shown and linked so that you can check it out for yourself.
Friendships: Friendship stories might be about just two people becoming friends or about one person becoming friends with lots of different people.
Changed cover and profile pictures: These stories often look very similar to a regular photo story. Click through to look at the new photos on your friends’ Timelines in their full-sized glory.
Events: Stories about events (usually letting you know which friends have RSVP’d yes to an event) include a link to the event, so if you’re looking for someplace to go, you can say yes, too. Only public events show up here, so if you’ve added a private event, don’t worry about people who weren’t invited to seeing it in News Feed.
Recommendation requests: Sometimes friends may be looking for help creating a vacation itinerary or finding a good place to buy new soccer cleats. They can ask their wise Facebook friends for help answering these sorts of questions by requesting recommendations.
Recommendation request stories usually include location information and a map (like check-in stories) so that you can quickly out if you’ll be able to help.
Fundraisers: Fundraisers are ways for people to raise money toward any sort of goal. They might be associated with a nonprofit or trying to round up some cash for a personal goal or on behalf of a friend. When you see stories about your friends’ fundraisers, you get some information about the organization or cause, as well as links to learn more or donate.
Read/Watch/Listen: Certain services and websites, such as the book-reading site Goodreads, may be allowed to automatically post specific actions people take on their site to Facebook.
Sponsored and suggested: Suggested and sponsored stories are ads. Ads are what keeps Facebook free to use, so there’s no way to remove them. These ads are hopefully relevant to you and your life and may even help you find Pages or services you find interesting.
If you consider yourself a news junkie or are just someone who likes to know what everyone’s talking about these days, you’ll probably enjoy paying attention to the box labeled Trending on the right side of your News Feed. Trending topics shows headlines that people are talking about across all of Facebook.
So even if no one in your group of friends is posting about the latest episode of Game of Thrones, if enough people on Facebook are talking about it, you’ll see a headline about it in the Trending box.
Clicking on any of the trending topics opens a Facebook page that compiles the articles that are being shared about any given topic, as well as related videos and photos, as well as some public posts about it.
Usually trending topics focus on pop culture or major headlines. You can filter trending topics by various categories using the icons in the upper right of the Trending box.
By default, you see trending topics, signified by an arrow climbing up and to the right. You can also select from Politics (town hall icon), Science and Technology (beaker icon), Sports (soccer ball icon), or Entertainment (clapper-board icon).
Interacting with News Feed
Unlike the newspaper on your doorstep in the morning, News Feed is not just a method of delivering the news. It’s more of a starting place, meant to facilitate more interactions between you and your friends.
Each story has at least two options at the bottom of it: Like and Comment. Many stories also have a third option: Share. Each of these options allows you to interact with your friend and their content. You can also save content you see on Facebook to go back to later.
Liking is one of the simplest actions on Facebook. Here’s how you like something:
1. Click Like.
It really is that easy. Anytime you see something that is just good, you can click Like to let the person who shared it know that you liked seeing it. Like buttons may appear as text or as a thumbs up icon (or both). When you like something, the person who shared it will be notified (and trust me, being notified that someone liked something you shared is a great feeling).
Additionally, other people seeing that story may see that you have liked it. If you ever like something by accident, simply click Unlike to undo it.
I don’t want to overcomplicate liking by over-explaining when you might like something when you might like something instead of commenting on it when you might like something and comment on it. Suffice it to say that if you enjoyed something you saw, or that you agree with something your friend said, or that, well, you liked that content, then clicking Like communicates the sentiment loud and clear.
Liking is the simplest way to let someone know you saw and appreciated something they posted. Sometimes, however, Like just doesn’t seem appropriate. People often post stressful or sad things on Facebook; it would be insensitive to respond to “My dog had to be put down today” with Like. On the other side of things, sometimes Like isn’t a strong enough term.
Do you like that baby smiling, or do you love it so much you want to eat its face? Historically, you might see people commenting on these sorts of posts with one-word responses: Love. Dislike. LOL. Sad.
Reactions are Facebook’s way of providing more than just one button to express your sentiment. To leave a Reaction other than a Like, simply hover the mouse cursor over the Like button or link and wait for the Reactions menu to open. You can then choose your Reaction from the following options:
Like: The old standby. Click on the thumbs up icon to let your friend know you liked their post.
Love: The heart icon lets your friend know you loved their post.
Haha: The laughing smiley face lets your friend know you thought what they posted was funny.
Wow: The smiley face gaping in awe lets your friend know that you were impressed if not flabbergasted by their post.
Sad: Express a little empathy by clicking the crying smiley face. It is the virtual equivalent of a gentle pat on the back.
Angry: The virtual equivalent of a little “grrrrr,” clicking the glowering smiley face lets your friend know that you are angry.
When you click any of these reactions, your friend receives a notification that you reacted to their post.
You can like almost anything on Facebook. You can like a photo or a status; you can even like a comment on a photo or status. But there’s a slight difference between liking this sort of content and liking Pages. Pages are sort of official profiles that companies, bands, and public smake to represent themselves on Facebook.
They mostly work like Timeline except instead of friending Pages, you like them. This sort of liking has one big implication you should be aware of. It means you may start seeing posts and updates from the Page in your News Feed, alongside stories from your friends.
These sorts of updates can be interesting and cool if you’re into the company or brand (for example, Disneyland or The New York Times). If they start to bother you, you can always hide that Page from your News Feed.
Liking something is the quickest and easiest way to let your friend know that you saw what they had to say and enjoyed it. Commenting is also simple, and it takes you from a reaction — I liked this! — to a conversation. The only requirement for a comment is that you to have something to say. The comment box appears under most content on Facebook.
When you comment on something on Facebook, anyone who can see that item— whether it is a post, a photo, or something else—will be able to see and respond to your comment. By the same token, you can see comments from people you aren’t friends with.
Adding a comment
Commenting isn’t much harder than liking something. To comment on anything on Facebook, follow these steps:
1. Click Comment. The comment box expands. Frequently, this box is already expanded, in which case you can simply go on to Step 2.
2. Click in the text box that appears. Type what you want to say. and Press Enter.
3. Pressing Enter posts your comment beneath the post. Whoever posted the item will be notified of your comment and will be able to respond. After you comment on something, you’ll be notified about subsequent comments so that you can keep up on the conversation.
Adding a comment with extras
Adding a comment is meant to be easy, but sometimes you need more than words to express yourself. For example, I once posted a photo of a fully unrolled tube of toilet paper, courtesy of my two-year-old. The comments from my friends included their own photos of toddler-toilet paper mayhem. You can add emojis, photos, GIFs (quick animations on loop), and stickers to comments.
Emojis: Click on the smiley face icon in the comment box to open a menu of emojis you can add to your comment. Emojis range from faces to flags to food. Simply click on the emoji you want to add, and it will appear in the comment box.
Photos: Click the camera icon to open a window that allows you to select photos and videos from your computer’s hard drive. Click on the photo or video you want to add, then select “Choose” or “Open” at the bottom of that window. When you post your comment, the photo or video will be included.
A GIF is technically a type of file format for images, but people also use it to refer to short animated clips that play on a loop. These clips are often pulled from pop culture (a repeated loop of a character from a TV show rolling her eyes, for example) and can be used as a sort of visual shorthand or punctuation in text.
Click on the GIF icon in the comment box to open a menu of GIFs you can add to a comment. These are sorted by trending, meaning the first few GIFs you see are the ones currently being used the most. You can use the search box to find a GIF for virtually any emotion, complex thought, or cultural meme. Simply click on the GIF you want to post it as a comment.
Like Emojis and GIFS, stickers are a way for you to add an extra visual element to your comments. Stickers are meant to be the same as their real-world counterparts, a decorative little image that brightens someone’s day. Click the Stickers icon (It looks a little like a sticky note being peeled) to open a menu for choosing stickers.
You can pick a category (such as Happy or Sleepy) or search by keyword for the sticker you want. Click on the sticker to post it as a comment. One other commenting extra you can try is tagging a friend in your comment. Tagging is a way of creating a link between something you post and your friend’s
In this case, people often tag friends to bring their comments (or the original post) to the attention of other friends, as tagging someone sends them a notification. You can tag a friend in a comment by typing the @ symbol (that’s Shift+2) and then typing your friend’s name. Facebook will auto-complete as you type, and you will be able to select the person’s name from a menu that appears.
Editing and Removing comments
If you decide, on second thought, your comment was a poor choice, all is not lost! You can edit or delete a comment at any time.
1. Hover your mouse over the comment that you’d like to change or remove. A small ellipsis icon appears in the upper-right corner of the comment.
2. Click the ellipsis icon. This opens a small menu with two options, “Edit” or “Delete.”
3. Select Edit to make changes to your original comment or Delete to simply remove it.
If you choose Edit, the comment box will reopen as if you had just finished typing your comment but not yet hit enter. If you choose to delete, you will need to confirm that you want to delete the comment. You can delete any comments, from anyone, on your own content, by following these same steps.
If you make multiple edits to a comment, you can see all the previous edits you’ve made by clicking the Edited link under that comment. Others may be able to see that same Edited link on your comment, especially the person who posted the content, but they won’t be able to click or see any changes you’ve made.
Replying to and liking comments
As I mentioned earlier, commenting on something is a way of starting a conversation, and the way to continue that conversation is by liking or replying to comments. At the bottom of any comment, you can see two small links to Like or Reply.
Liking a comment is generally a way of saying “I agree” or “Right on!” or “That’s funny.” Click Like next to any comment to let the commenter know how much you enjoyed what he had to say. Replying to a comment is as easy as clicking the Reply link beneath the comment you want to respond to. This opens a text box that says Write a reply . . . . You can then follow the same commenting steps detailed earlier.
You’ve probably noticed the word Share being used a lot on Facebook. In addition to the Share box (also called the Publisher) at the top of your News Feed and Timeline, Facebook has a specific Share feature, designed to make it easy to post and send content that you find both on Facebook and on the web. Sharing is a variation of using the Publisher or Share box.
Perhaps you’ve already noticed the little Share links all over Facebook. They show up on albums, individual photos, events, groups, News Feed stories, and more. They help you share content quickly without having to copy and paste. If you’re looking at content on Facebook that you want to show someone, simply click the Share link near it. This opens a small menu with several options:
Share Now (<Privacy>):
This is the quickest way to share something. Choosing this option simply posts the content to your own Timeline (and, by extension, your friends’ News Feeds). The <Privacy> notice reminds you who normally sees content that you share on Facebook. It might say “Public” or “Friends” or “Custom” depending on your privacy settings.
This option opens a full Share box that allows you to add your own commentary on the content you are sharing before you share it. Use the drop-down menu at the top to choose how you’d like to share the content.
Share on Your Timeline:
This option posts the content to your Timeline the same way you post a link or a photo from your Share box. This means it will go into your friends’ News Feeds as well. This is redundant with the Share Now option, except you also get to add any comments to your post about your friend’s post before you share it.
Share on a Friend’s Timeline:
This option is the same as copying and pasting a link into a post you leave on your friend’s Timeline (but it’s much easier than all that copy/paste nonsense).
Share in a Group:
This option allows you to post the content to a specific group you’re a member of.
Share in an Event:
This option allows you to post the content to an Event you are attending.
Share on a Page You Manage (for Page owners only):
If you’re the admin of a Page — a Timeline for non-people — you can share things as a post from your Page.
Share in a Private Message:
This accomplishes the same thing as copying and pasting a link into a message to a friend. In other words, only the friend you send it to will see the link, whereas sharing via the Timeline means anyone viewing your friend’s Timeline can also see the content. If you’re choosing to share on your own Timeline, you can click the privacy drop-down menu next to the Post button to change who can see the post.
Send a Message:
This option opens a message box where you can type in names you would like to message with your friend’s post. You can also add a comment to the “Say something about this” section to let your friend(s) know why you are sharing it with them (yes, this is the same as the Share in a Private Message option, above).
Share on a friend’s Timeline:
This option lets you post the content to a friend’s Timeline. Again, it is fundamentally a shortcut that accomplishes the same thing as copying and pasting a link on your friend’s Timeline (and yes, it’s the same as the Share on a Friend’s Timeline option, above).
Share to a Page:
If you’re a Page owner or admin, you can use this link to share something like a post from your Page. When you click this option, you can add your commentary and decide if you want it attributed directly to the Page or from you.
Followers of your Page will then be able to see that content (yes, this is the same as the Share on a Page You Manage option, above). If you click Share on a friend’s post, the friend who originally shared it is given a credit. So if you reshare an article, the post that your friends see will say Shared <Friend’s Name>’s Post so that everyone knows where you found it.
Sharing across the Internet
If you’re a reader of blogs, or a viewer of videos, or an online shopper, you probably know that virtually everything you look at has links to share it. Almost any content you share can easily be shared directly through Facebook if you are logged in to Facebook in your browser.
Next time you are reading an article on your favorite site, look to see if you can spot a Facebook logo (you may need to click “share” first, and then select Facebook from a menu of options).
When you choose to share on Facebook, a Share box opens in its own window. You can then view the post, add any of your own comments, adjust the privacy, and post it to your Timeline without ever having to leave the page you were on.
For me, the News Feed is one of the best sources I have for articles, videos, and legitimate old-fashioned news that I might find interesting. I follow several Pages for newspapers and magazines, and my friends are the nerdy type who read and share articles that they find interesting as well.
The only problem with this is that sometimes I see articles that look interesting when I don’t have time to click through and read them.
That’s why the Save feature is one of my favorite hidden Facebook features. Saving articles, videos, and other posts is an effective way to make a reading list for later when you have more time.
This is also a good way to bookmark helpful websites you might need later (like a list of the best pumpkin patches to visit in the fall). To save a post, click the small down arrow in the upper right corner of the post you want to save. This opens the News Feed menu. Click the Save post option (usually in the middle of the menu).
This automatically adds the post to your Saved section. You can get to your saved posts at any time by clicking Saved in the menu on the left side of the window. Facebook may also occasionally show you a selection of your saved items in your News Feed in case you forgot about them.
Adjusting News Feed
News Feed is designed to learn about what you like and whom you care about and to show you stories accordingly. As you use News Feed, it learns what you like based on your clicks, comments, and likes. You can give News Feed more information to work with to make News Feed even better for you.
Hiding posts and people
There are ways to tell News Feed explicitly who you do and don’t want to see (and I go over these in the “News Feed Preferences” section). But chances are you might not know what you like or don’t like until you see it. Sometimes you’ll realize that you will simply explode if you have to see another baby photo from a particular coworker.
Sometimes someone you know just won’t stop posting political screeds. And sometimes one post will just bug you and you won’t want to see it anymore. As soon as you realize you don’t like what you are seeing, you can easily give this feedback to News Feed using the menu of options found as part of any News Feed story.
To open this menu, click on the small down arrow in the upper right corner of any News Feed story. This menu gives you at least two options regarding the story you are looking at
Selecting this option will immediately hide that post from your News Feed. Additionally, Facebook will try to show you fewer posts “like this.” In other words, depending on the type of story you are hiding (such as a photo story or life event) Facebook will try not to show you as many of that story type.
Unfollow <Friend or Page Name>:
Selecting this option will semi-permanently prevent stories from this friend from appearing in your News Feed at all. I say semi-permanently because you will be able to undo this option later if you wish. Selecting either option will hide the story you are looking at and display a small confirmation message to let you know that you have successfully hidden that post or unfollowed your friend.
You can click the blue Undo here if you regret your actions. If you are looking at a post that involves multiple people, such as a story about Sansa (your friend) tagged in a photo by Peter (not your friend), you may see additional options to Hide All from Petyr. If someone is sharing a post from a Page or an App, you may also see options to hide posts from that Page or App.
Unfollowing friends is different from unfriending them. Unfriending them severs the link between your Timelines and may mean you are no longer able to see certain parts of their Timeline. Unfollowing simply removes their posts from your News Feed.
News Feed preferences
Hiding posts and people is a good way to incrementally adjust your News Feed over time. But if you’re looking to make a bigger impact right away, you may want to adjust your News Feed preferences instead.
Your News Feed preferences allow you to choose friends you want to see first, unfollow friends you already know you don’t want in your News Feed, and reconnect with people you may have unfollowed in the past. To get to the News Feed Preferences menu, hover the mouse cursor over the News Feed link in your left-side menu.
Click the ellipsis icon that appears to the left of the words News Feed and then click Edit Preferences in the menu that appears. There are four sections of preferences you can use to influence News Feed. (The fifth option, “See more options” is simply a way to keep track of any apps you may have hidden from News Feed).
Prioritizing friends is a way of designating people you always want to see in News Feed. I prioritize people like my best friends and my husband. I also have prioritized a more distant friend who I think posts hilarious stuff, so I want to make sure I don’t miss what she has to say.
Posts from prioritized friends will always be at the top of your News Feed when you log in. Unfortunately, if your friends don’t post very often, there still won’t be anything to show you.
News Feed needs something to work with. You can see a prioritized post. The only thing that differentiates such a post (other than the fact that it’s at the top of News Feed when you log in) is a tiny blue star in the upper right corner of the post.
Click Prioritize Who to See First to open a menu for choosing people from your friend list. Facebook displays the people it thinks you’ll likely want to see first at the top, you may have to scroll down a bit to find whom you’re looking for.
Click on any friend’s face to select them (and click again to deselect them). When you’re finished, click the blue Done button to save your choices.
By default, when you become friends with someone you also start following them. This means that their posts may appear in your News Feed. However, as not all friendships are created equal, unfollowing is a simple way to stop seeing stories while still maintaining the friendship.
You don’t need any particular reason to unfollow people (or unfollow a Page). You can do it because they post too frequently, or you don’t like what they post, or because they just broke your best friend’s heart.
To select people (and Pages) you’d like to unfollow, follow these steps from the News Feed Preferences menu:
1. Click the Unfollow People to Hide Their Posts section. This opens an interface for selecting people and Pages.
2. Click on the people or Pages you want to unfollow. When you have selected someone to unfollow, that person’s profile picture will be outlined in blue and the word “Unfollowed” will appear below her name.
3. Click Done to save your selections.
If your News Feed is ever feeling a little stale or bland, you might want to consider refollowing people you had previously unfollowed. Clicking this section of the Preferences menu opens a menu for choosing from people whom you have previously unfollowed. Click on any face to add them back into the News Feed mix and then click Done.
If you don’t have many friends yet, or you don’t like the type of stuff your friend's post, you may be able to make your News Feed more interesting to you by following Pages. Pages post all the same types of content that people do, and you may find that certain Pages actually post your favorite links or articles or top ten lists.
Clicking this section of the Preferences menu opens a display of Pages your friends have liked (or are popular across Facebook). Click on any of the Page names to actually go visit that Page and see what sort of stuff they post.
You can also click the like button (thumbs up icon) to immediately like and follow that Page. You can always unlike or unfollow the Page later if it turns out you don’t like the things posted there.
Sharing Your Own News
While there are millions of things to do on Facebook (and this book tries to cover every single one of them), the most basic action on Facebook is sharing.
First things first: Take a look at the Publisher (also called the Share box) at the top of your News Feed. A very similar box appears at the top of your Timeline, and the top of most Groups and Pages.
The Publisher is what you use to create and share posts with your friends. Any posts you make from the Publisher will go on your Timeline and may appear in your friends’ News Feeds. Like much of Facebook, there’s a lot packed into this little box. Before going into all the details of what you can share and how I start with the most basic type of post: a status update.
A status update is a way of reporting what’s going on with you right now. Facebook uses the phrase “What’s on your mind?” to prompt a status update. So you can share what you’re thinking about, what you’re doing, or really anything. To update your status, follow these steps:
1. Click into the Publisher, where it says, “What’s on your mind?”
The Publisher expands and the rest of the screen fades away so that you can focus on your post.
2. Type your status.
If you’re experiencing writer’s block, check out the upcoming section, “What should I say?”
3. Click Post.
It’s the blue button in the lower-right corner of the Publisher. Like I said, sharing on Facebook is meant to be easy. Once you’ve shared your status, your friends will likely see it in their News Feeds and they will be able to like and comment on your status.
Beyond the basic status update
Now that you know the basics of posting a status update, you can learn more about all the other buttons and options you see in the Publisher. Adding links to your updates allows you to share interesting things you’ve found all over the Internet.
You can also click any of the buttons at the bottom of the Publisher to add a pop of color to your post, or you can add photos, tags, and details about what you’re doing and where you are. You can combine almost all these additions to your posts, for example adding first an emoji, then a photo. However, you can’t add both links and photos from your hard drive at the same time.
Adding a background
Adding a background color or design is a fun way to add some personality to a post. When you add a background color it also changes the format and font size of your post, so it gives your words a certain amount of emphasis that they don’t always have in a traditional status update. You can see the difference between a regular status update and one with a background color.
To add a background color, simply click on one of the colorful squares that appear beneath your text when you start typing a status. As soon as you click on a color, your text will appear on that background. You can then play around with what you want to say, as well as clicking between the different colors and designs to find the one that fits your post best.
When it’s to your liking, click Post. If you ever start creating a post and decide you don’t like it, click the X in the upper right corner of the Publisher to cancel everything you’ve done and gone back to News Feed.
To add content from another website to your post, simply copy and paste the link into the Publisher. Facebook will automatically generate a preview for the content based on the link. Previews usually include an image, a headline, and a description. Depending on the content you are sharing, you may be able to choose from different thumbnail photos.
You can also hover over the thumbnail image and click the X that appears in the upper-right corner to remove the image entirely. Once you get your preview looking the way you want, you can delete the original link (the preview will remain) and use the space above to share your thoughts about your link. When you’re ready to share, click Post.
Adding an emoji
An emoji is a smiley face icon or another small-sized image that you can insert into your post. To select from a menu of emoji, click on the smiley face icon on the right side of the Publisher’s text box. When you see the emoji you want to add, click it. You can add emoji to text or simply create a post made entirely of emojis.
Adding a photo or video
Click the Photo/Video button in the lower half of the Publisher to add a photo to your post. When you click this, it opens an interface for navigating your computer’s hard drive to find the photo you want to add.
Often some of the best photos you want to share on Facebook are on your phone. Once you’ve selected the photo (or photos) you want to add, click Choose or Open.
This brings you back to the Publisher. The photos you’ve added will appear as small square thumbnails within your post. Hovering the mouse cursor over this thumbnail causes three new icons to appear.
Click the X in the upper-right corner of the thumbnail to remove that photo from your post. Select the left icon (a person with a tag) to tag the people who are in that photo.
Tagging is a way of linking a photo to one of your friends’ Timelines. That way people will know who is in your photo, and your friend’s friends will be able to see the photo as well.
Select the Paintbrush icon (on the right side of the photo thumbnail) to edit your photo. Clicking this opens a larger preview of your photo with editing options along the left of the screen. The options for editing are: filters, tag, crop, add text and add stickers.
Click the +Album button at the bottom of the Publisher to add these photos to one of the albums you’ve already created on Facebook. They will be added to the end of that album in addition to creating a new post with them.
When you’re happy with the photos you’ve chosen, you can add more text or other information to the post, or simply click Post to share.
Adding a tag
the tag is a way of linking someone or something else to your own content on Facebook. Most often tags are used to let people know who is in a photo, but tags can also be used in status updates to let people know who is with you. People also use tags to bring certain friends’ attention to something they are posting.
For example, you might see a status update that says something like “Who’s up for going climbing? Jon, Ygritte?” Each bolded name links to a friend’s Timeline. Additionally, those friends get notified when the post is published, which means they definitely see the invitation to go climbing.
There are two ways to tag someone in your post. The first is to type the @ symbol (that’s Shift + 2) and begin typing the name of the person you want to tag. Facebook auto-completes as you type. When you see your friend’s name highlighted, hit Enter or select it with your mouse. When you tag someone this way, the tag appears as part of the post: “Way better than Tyrion at brooding.”
The second way that you can add a tag is by clicking the Tag Friends button at the bottom of the Publisher. Clicking this opens a small text field at the bottom of the Publisher that asks, “Who are you with?” Again, start typing your friend’s name and press Enter when you see it highlighted in the auto-complete menu. When you tag people this way, their name gets appended to the top of the post: “Get busy brooding — with Tyrion.”
In addition to people, you can tag Pages. For example, you might want people to know that you are very excited about the latest episode of Game of Thrones. Type the @ sign and start typing Game of Thrones, and you’ll find that it also appears in the auto-complete menu.
Adding what you’re doing or feeling
Clicking the Feeling/Activity button opens a menu of choices to explain what you are doing, thinking, or feeling while writing your status update. You may be feeling blessed, or baking cookies, or traveling to the Grand Canyon.
The options here are virtually endless. The information you enter here gets appended to your post, often with a tiny emoji, or icon, that further illustrates what you are doing or feeling. Additionally, if something you are doing has a page or information about it on Facebook, Facebook may add a preview of that information to your post. There is an emoji of confetti and a horn to signify New Year’s Eve.
You can only add one thing you are doing or feeling to a post, so, unfortunately, you cannot be both feeling conflicted and watching Game of Thrones at the same time, as far as your posts go.
Adding a sticker
Stickers are a way to add a slightly more detailed visual element to your post. Much like the real-world counterparts they run the gamut from a simple image to a complicated drawing.
They are bigger than the emojis that you can add and appear at the top of your post. To add a sticker, click the Sticker button in the lower half of the Publisher. This opens a menu for choosing stickers. You can click on a topic that piques your interest or enter a search term to find the sticker that best reflects your post.
Checking in with your location information
Facebook uses information it gets from your browser to automatically append at least a small amount of location information (usually your city) to your posts. You can click Check In to add more specific location information.
Clicking Check-In opens a small text field that asks, “Where are you?” Start typing where you are — that might be a place like a coffee shop or an airport, or a city or a landmark. Facebook auto-completes as you type; when you see your desired location highlighted, press Enter to check in there.
Controlling who sees your posts
The big question people often have before they share something on Facebook is “Who is going to see this?” Facebook makes it easy to know who will see a post as you are creating it. In the bottom left corner of the Publisher is the Privacy menu. The Privacy menu has four very basic options that allow you to simply decide who will see your post. There are some more advanced options I touch on briefly here.
By default, when you sign up for Facebook, your posts are public. When something is public, it means that anyone can see it. It doesn’t mean, however, that everyone does see it. Due to the volume of content on Facebook (two billion people adding even one post a day is a lot of posts), the chances of a true stranger seeing your post is low.
Rather, the people in the “public” who will likely see your post are friends of your friends or other people whom you in some way interact with on Facebook — through a shared group, for example. If someone were to search you out and visit your Timeline, that person would be able to see any public posts you’ve made there.
Friends only posts
The second main option presented to you in the privacy menu is “Friends.” Posts that are visible to friends are only visible to people you have added as friends. You already know that when you post something, it may appear in your friends’ News Feeds; the same holds true when you set your privacy to Friends.
Friends of friends will not be able to see your post, even if your friend comments on it. Someone searching you out and viewing your Timeline would not be able to see your post.
This privacy option is why I recommend that you never accept friend requests from strangers. When you know everyone whom you are friends with, it is easy to know who can see your posts.
Friends except for posts
Even though I recommend that you only accept friend requests from people you would willingly share all your posts with, sometimes that is just not possible. We all know what it’s like to get a friend request from someone it’s just not acceptable to reject (love you, Mom!). And sometimes our posts just are not meant for their eyes. Choosing this option opens a window where you can type in the names of friends you don’t want to see your post.
Only Me posts
Posts that have this setting are visible to, you guessed it, only you. Frankly, I don’t think I have ever used this setting. If I don’t want anyone to see something, I don’t put it on Facebook. Privacy is a way of controlling who can see what, but the easiest way to measure it is not in counting the number of people who can see something.
If you have a huge Friend List (and many people do) does the difference between something being available to 500 people or to 1,000 people or to 1,000,000,000 people matter? Well, maybe. The way I usually measure privacy is not numerical but emotional. Do you feel comfortable? Do you feel safe?
These are the questions I think you should answer when you are choosing between privacy settings. Whichever option you choose, the next time you go to post something, that same option will be selected. Facebook assumes that most of the time you are interested in sharing with the same people — either friends or everyone — so it doesn’t force you to change your privacy each time you post.
Advanced sharing options
Often, people ask me about sharing content with a subset of their friends. This might be because they are only comfortable sharing with a small group of people, or because their Friend List includes people like their bosses or family members with whom they don’t want to share everything. People also sometimes worry about being annoying to their friends.
Parents on Facebook often get teased about adding too many photos of their babies, so a new mom or dad might want to share all those baby photos with a smaller group of people who definitely want to see them. There are three main ways to accomplish this: Friend Lists, groups, or customer privacy.
Friend Lists are a way of sorting friends into categories. These categories remain private to you; friends aren’t notified when you add them to a friend list.
Facebook also creates some lists for you automatically (you can edit those lists later if you want). If you click on “More” and then “See All” in the privacy menu, you will see some of these lists appear: Close Friends, Family, <Current City>, and any other lists you have created.
Selecting the list you want to share with means that only those friends will be able to see whatever it is you are posting. So if you want to post your thoughts about a ballot measure in your local elections, you could choose only to share that with friends in your city.
Groups are a lot like lists when you use them to categorize your friends, except that groups provide a destination for all members to share content together. When you add friends to a group, Facebook notifies them of it and they must decide whether to stay in the group.
Groups can be a really easy way to share content with a smaller circle — the dilemma of new parents with lots of photos of their babies can be relieved by creating a “Photos of Junior” group and inviting friends to join.
Friends who would rather not see your baby photos all the time can leave the group, and people who stay in the group know what they are signing up for.
To share something with a group, navigate to that group’s Homepage from your left-side menu. Then use the Publisher there (it works the same as the Publisher at the top of your News Feed) to share your post. By default, friends in a given group are notified when you post something and may see that post in their News Feed.
Another option when you select More and then See All from the privacy menu is custom privacy. Custom privacy allows you to be incredibly specific in terms of choosing who can and cannot see your post. You can use it to specify that people in Seattle can see your post, but not Josh or David. Or that your friends can see it, but not people you went to high school with.
I’ve seen people plan surprise parties this way: by posting a reminder about Phil’s birthday and then reminding people that Phil can’t see that post. I go over exactly how to use the Custom. When you choose a new privacy option, that same choice will remain the next time you post something.
SB: THE POLITICS OF NEWS FEED
If you lived in the U.S. during the 2016 Presidential Election, chances are you heard a bit about Facebook and how it related to the election. There were two main parts of this: the proliferation of fake news headlines and the simple exhaustion many people felt (on both the right and the left) with what felt like constant political battles waged in comment threads between friends and strangers alike.
In response to the fake news issue, Facebook built a few tools for marking content as fake, or, as Facebook euphemistically puts it, “disputed.” When people report content, Facebook has an option for reporting something because it is false. Things that get marked as false often enough may be reviewed by independent fact-checkers.
If the fact-checkers find it to be false, that article or video or photo will then appear with a red warning badge next to it. Clicking that badge gives you more information about why it is considered disputed.
The difficulty of navigating a Facebook that seems full of political landmines is a little more complex. I, personally, really like to read articles that my friends share about politics, but hate discussing them via comments. Other people hate seeing these sorts of articles at all. Other people love to get into a good old-fashioned intellectual debate in the comments section.
Still, others love to get in a good old-fashioned flame war, where two people basically insult each other savagely and at length over any topic. My advice for dealing with politics on Facebook hopefully applies to everyone except the latter group, who I suspect aren’t really looking for advice on this matter.
It’s okay to opt out: As I said, comment discussions are not really my jam, so I just don’t do it. I don’t really read all the comments on the articles I read. I read the articles, think my thoughts, and maybe talk about them with my family and friends. If you don’t like these sorts of discussions, don’t take part.
If a discussion you don’t like is taking place on something you posted, ask that people keep it civil or take it elsewhere. Or delete their posts. You, personally, are not obligated to broker peace between two disagreeing relatives or between yourself and a former classmate who has completely opposing views to you.
If you like these discussions but are reaching the end of your rope, simply stop. Step away from the keyboard for a little while. Come back to it when you’re ready. Or don’t come back to it. That’s okay too.
Keep it civil:
This is a big one. Remember that whatever you are saying is being read by real, live people with real feelings. It’s easy to think of them as just that smiling little profile photo (and how dare they smile at you when you’re being serious!) but they aren’t that. They are a living, breathing person who has a mom who loves them and dreams for their life that has nothing to do with you.
If you find yourself getting heated, ask yourself, “would I say this if they were sitting next to me? would I say this to a family member I disagreed with?” We are all capable of great compassion, and sometimes it’s easy to forget that when you are online.
Unfollow and Hide without regret:
Are you sick of seeing articles from certain news outlets? You can prevent posts from that source from showing up in your News Feed by clicking the little arrow in the top right corner of any post. You can then choose to hide a post or stop seeing stories from <PartisanNews.com>.
If you know there are certain people whose posts set you off, unfollow them. They won’t find out and you might find that you’re seeing more of the things you like in the News Feed. You can also hide comments for any reason—you don’t agree, you find it annoying, or they confused it and it’s and you cannot stand for such a thing.
Hover over the comment you want to hide, click the ellipsis icon that appears in its upper right corner, and select Hide Comment from the menu that opens sometimes comments appear with a small X in the upper right corner, which instantly hides the comment when clicked). Remember, this is your Facebook, so you get a big say in what you’re looking at.
Report people and content freely
Facebook is a place where people can discuss contentious issues. However, it is not a place where people can be abusive or promote hate speech. If someone is being abusive (to you or to another user) or if they are promoting hate and violence towards another person or group of people, report them! You can report posts from the same Hide Post/Unfollow menu in the upper right corner of a post.
If you want to report a comment, you must first hide it. After you do so, a link appears which you can click to report the comment. You will need to select a reason.