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Facebook’s new News Feed promotes articles, your friends’ old posts … and buries memes

Could this finally be it? Could this finally be “the thing” – the fix? I’m talking about the solution to Facebook’s never-ending News Feed problem.

On Monday, Facebook announced a new News Feed – yet again – that is taking some cues from what the social network has seen from user activity. “Today’s update … recognizes than people want to see more relevant news and what their friends have to say about it,” wrote Facebook. According to Facebook, that means more high-quality news articles and fewer meme photos.

“Starting soon, we’ll be doing a better job of distinguishing between a high quality article on a website versus a meme photo hosted somewhere other than Facebook when people click on those stories,” Facebook says. “This means that high quality articles you or others read may show up a bit more prominently in your News Feed, and meme photos may show up a bit less prominently.”

The update will also include a new option when you share an article to Like or Share another, similar article, sometimes those from the same publisher.

This is another effort to partner with media companies, something Facebook has been working on for awhile now. Becoming chummier with traditional Web publishers is in Facebook’s interest because it wants to be a hub of news-sharing, and the numbers show that the platform is pretty good at it; why not be better at it?

facebook meme

Still, this update means Facebook is giving “new media” the cold shoulder. It makes Facebook the anti-Reddit, anti-Imgur, anti-Tumblr. And sites like 9Gag, Memeburn, Cheezeburger, Memecenter, and Viralnova will likely take a beating from the new algorithm. (The exception here, perhaps, is Buzzfeed, which drenches its readers in listicles, memes, and single-image posts – but it’s a Facebook partner, so prominently featured in the News Feed rotation it shall remain).

The changes aren’t only relevant to news posts and links; Facebook says that it’s working to make sure you also see plenty of status updates from your friends.

“We’re updating bumping to highlight stories with new comments. After people read a story, they are unlikely to go back and find that story again to see what their friends were saying about it, and it wouldn’t bump up in News Feed,” Facebook explains. “With this update stories will occasionally resurface that have new comments from friends.”

If you’re starting to pre-rage at this, I hear you: I feel like my News Feed has been inundated with weeks, even months-old stories that received one recently-placed new comment. And I think we’re all equally horrified at the idea of drunkenly trolling through someone’s old photos, leaving some ill-intentioned comment on a photo from 2006, only to see it pop up in the News Feed in the bright, sober light of the next day. Why could that not remain buried in 2006, where it belongs?! Why must I pay for my present day Facebook stalking?!

Hopefully, all of this frustration was because of the testing Facebook was doing to see how we felt about it. “People may start seeing a few more stories returning to their feed with new comments highlight,” Facebook says. “Our testing has shown that doing this in moderation for just a small number of stories can lead to more conversations between people and their friends on all types of content.”

Either we have to hope that the last few months’ constant resurfacing of old, old stories was the testing phase, and the actual update won’t be so dramatic. Otherwise, it’s our own fault for giving in to the pressure of Liking or commenting on old posts. (I too have felt the need to Like a photo from that wedding last summer because it suddenly popped up).

Overall, these changes address one issue, meme overload (which some users have grown weary of), while reinforcing another with these constant blasts from the pasts.

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