On Becoming a Facebook Ghost

You’ve probably seen the recent, widely-distributed alert about how Facebook’s News Feed (wall) changed:  now it shows you updates only from friends & pages you’ve interacted with recently.

So, possibly a huge portion of the daily connections between FB users has been quietly suppressed, to achieve this greater focus.  A lot of my network, perhaps, has gone silent, and I’m now invisible to many of my “friends,” but I don’t know which.

It is like you are walking around in public, and many of the people you see are actually ghosts, holograms, but you don’t know which.  If you greet people or tap them on the shoulder, often they don’t respond, and you don’t know if they’re just indifferent or they’re just ghosts.  (ok, years of living in NYC talking here).

You can change your wall settings back to how they were, so *you* see all your friends’ news.  (see how, at bottom of post).  But you’ll may still be invisible to them, unless they changed *their* settings.  And it’s a well-known principle in software design that most people never change default settings.

Of course, this recent change just implements en masse what could happen before by people turning off or dialing down updates from specific people.  Some friend was annoying and prolific in posting, so you clicked on “less from this person”.  Thus you could disconnect from people, without their knowing.  We never really knew to whom we were ghosts.

Naturally, all this leads to the question:  how *could* I figure out who’s just become a ghost to me, and to whom I’m a ghost?  For the former, you could go through your friends list, go to their profiles, look at their recent postings/news (if any), and compare to your news feed.  (Yeah, not really feasible).

To figure out to whom you’ve become a ghost, I suppose you could post on your wall, then write to all your friends and see if they saw it on their wall;  or you could ask all of them to change their settings to show all.  Right… you’d annoy a lot of people, most wouldn’t respond, and you wouldn’t know who’d actually changed their settings in response.  Besides, if 25% of FB users wrote to all their friends, you’d get an average of 40 messages, which would be 20 billion messages total, and FB would probably go down in flames.

I’m not a Facebook expert, so perhaps one of my better-versed friends can clue me in here to some better solution, a clever FB app perhaps… anyone?  anyone out there?

It goes to show, Facebook has an awesome power to unilaterally, perhaps silently  change our new social structures, our social identities — we 500 million worldwide active users, 50% logging in on any given day.  Godlike.  Seeing our every move, even guiding which moves we’ll know, or choose to take.  And that data, practically infinite data, flowing ever inwards:  has there ever been a greater project of social observation (or surveillance) and precise social engineering?

But this experiment is one-way:  we behave, they observe.  To a large degree, they engineer this “public” realm, and we inhabit it.  They are all-seeing, and we are ghosts among ghosts.

* “Facebook has changed its News Feed, so that by default, you can only see updates from people you’ve recently interacted with! To change this, click on the arrow next to ‘Most Recent’, then ‘Edit Options’, and check the box to receive updates from ALL Friends! Then save. “


What you need to do is: Click on “most recent” at the top right of the page. Click on the drop down arrow. Go to the bottom and select “Edit Options”. There will be a “Show Posts From” drop down, and when you click on that dropdown you get a choice of “Friends and Pages you interact with most” or “All of your Friends and Pages”. Choose the setting you want, then click on “Save”.