Posted at 05:10 PM ET, 09/21/2011

New Facebook guide; here’s how to use it — and how to get rid of it

BlogPost wrote earlier Wednesday on the changes to Facebook, and the general rancor among users the changes caused. But the complaints have not simmered down during the day. If anything, people have only become more bothered by the new setup, complaining about the confusion — or simply canceling their account. And there are more Facebook changes likely to come this Thursday.

In an effort to make you all not lose your minds, and to make the new Facebook more manageable, here’s a quick breakdown of how to use it.

First an explainer: in the increasingly competitive world of social sharing, Facebook added elements of its two main rivals: Twitter and Google+ to keep more people on their site. It means it’s now deciding what are the most important stories for you to see, it’s added a real-time update box (a la Twitter), and it’s increased its posting length (a la Google +). It also is letting people subscribe to other news feeds without actually friending them (a la both Google and Twitter). So here’s how to use it:

The Ticker

The ticker, in the upper right-hand corner, shows a continual list of what your friends are doing on the site. The changes to the main News Feed are meant to bring your attention to the most important stories and leave out the less important posts such as “So-and-so and so-and-so are now friends.” All of those more mundane items are now sent to the Ticker.

The Ticker also picks up all sorts of actions the old News Feed did not have — you can see when your friends comment on other status updates, when they post photos, basically every little action. This means: a lot of movement in that ticker. If you move your cursor over one of the updates, it lets you see the full conversation and interact with the statuses in the Ticker. As one joke being passed around on Facebook says, “I heard you like Facebook, so we put a Facebook in the upper right of yo Facebook so you can Facebook while u Facebook.”

The Ticker may cut down on some clutter in the main News Feed, but it makes the page much more chaotic. What to do with it? Get used to ignoring it or use it like people use Twitter, expect to only pick up snatches of the conversation here and there.

There is one more option: use Google Chrome and install this extension. It wipes the ticker right off your Facebook page. (Thanks to All Facebook for the tip.)

The News Feed’s important stories

The point of this one is Facebook wants to know more about what you want. It’s forcing you to decide what links and stories matter to you in your News Feed and which one’s you don’t want. If you don’t make that decision, Facebook will do it for you. (This is an extension of a change they made in February when Facebook filtered out friends you don’t often interact with.)

To determine what stories you see as most important, float your cursor over a friend's status update. A small downward pointing arrow appears in the right-hand corner and a blue tag appears in the left-hand corner. The blue tag will mark it as important, or you can select the arrow, which will give you an option of “mark as top story,” or “hide story.” The more stories you hide or mark as important, the more exact the Facebook filter will get in determining the types of stories you want to see. If you don’t want the choice, Facebook’s algorithm will choose for you.

The Subscribe situation

That float-down menu also has another option: it shows that you are subscribed to “most stories,” from a friend. That’s the default setting. Facebook introduced last week a subscribe option, letting you have a murky in-between friend and stranger option. You can subscribe to people’s feeds, but they don’t have to approve you as a friend for you to be able to see their updates. All the people you are currently friends with automatically are subscribed to you and vice versa.

Since you’re only subscribed to “most stories,” from friends, Facebook will also filter out some updates it deems uninteresting and move those to the second layer of stories on your feed, in the recent stories option. You can either go through your list and click on “all stories” to see all options, or you have to get used to seeing only a partial amount of your friends updates. Facebook wants you to interact more with your page, and its instituting changes that will make you want to.

The Poke

The notorious poke button has gone missing. It’s not gone for good, but it is much harder to find. For those committed to a good poke, you must go to the object of your poking affection, and locate a tiny drop down menu in the upper right hand corner. It gives you an option of poking someone or suggesting friends.


Still don’t like the changes? There are other options, of course. As All Facebook points out, you can use a third-party app that changes Facebook back to its old style (FB Purity, is particularly well named). Or you can listen to Google, which is trying not-so-subtly to get you to try Google+. Or you could turn off the computer and go take a walk.

Though that last option will only postpone the inevitable. You’ll have to stop walking at some point and update your status so all your friends can find out how nice your walk was, of course.

By  |  05:10 PM ET, 09/21/2011

Tags:  Technology, Facebook, Google +, Twitter

Read what others are saying

    © 2011 The Washington Post Company