2 min read

The Dilemma of Chronological Feeds: Meta's Revelation

The Dilemma of Chronological Feeds: Meta's Revelation

The colossal Meta-backed scientific endeavor aimed at studying the impact of Facebook and Instagram on people's political attitudes during the 2020 US presidential campaign.

Beyond its primary objective, this experiment has unexpectedly shed light on users' distaste for chronological feeds. Let's dive into this intriguing revelation.

The Back-and-Forth of Chronological Feeds

Instagram scrapped its chronological option in 2016, resulting in significant backlash from users. However, it made a return last year, following suit with Facebook. Some individuals opt for the chronological choice to stay current with live events, whereas policymakers view it as an antidote to enigmatic ranking algorithms that might ensnare users in information bubbles or expose them to harmful content.

Unveiling the New Findings

The new findings unveiled this week are part of an extensive Meta project, including 17 distinct studies, four of which have been published in peer-reviewed research papers. These recent discoveries about chronological feeds stemmed from a specific study centered on feed effects, published in the Science journal.

Impact on Political Attitudes

The randomized, controlled study aimed to ascertain whether the machine-learning technology steering users' feeds influences their political inclinations. The algorithms guiding platforms like Facebook and others often emphasize content similar to users' previous engagements, fostering like-mindedness and potentially deepening their existing political beliefs. These algorithms also spotlight events and news, encouraging political participation.

New call-to-action

Effect on User Behavior

The new study revealed that despite encountering more political and dubious content, users subjected to a reverse chronological feed from September to December 2020 did not experience significant shifts in political knowledge, attitudes, or behavioral patterns like protest participation or voting.

Time Spent Elsewhere

However, a remarkable trend emerged—the users subjected to chronological feeds found themselves spending less time on Meta apps and more on alternative platforms.

For instance, Instagram app users exploring the chronological feed allocated 36% more time to TikTok and 20% more to YouTube, reducing their time on the app by around eight hours over three months.

Similarly, Facebook users gravitated towards Reddit.com by 52% and YouTube.com by 21%. These users consumed less content from friends and exhibited a diminished tendency to engage through likes and comments.

Echoes of Earlier Experiments

This phenomenon aligns with the results of an internal 2018 Facebook experiment and a comparable 2014 test. People initially scrolled more fervently in search of stimulating content before concluding that the effort wasn't justified. A similar pattern was noted in an earlier Twitter survey, where a substantial majority couldn't keep up with all new content available through a time-ordered feed, and a majority found most of the content irrelevant.

The Prevailing Theory

The prevalent theory among industry experts is that chronological feeds can become desolate if connections haven't posted recently or are overly active. Instagram justified its switch to an algorithmic feed by asserting that users were missing 70% of new content, striving to prioritize what users cared about the most.

Balancing User Preferences

While pushback exists against prior studies, critics argue that users would appreciate chronological feeds more if provided with tools and time to customize their experience. Additionally, "chronological" doesn't uniformly signify the same across different apps and studies.

The Current Landscape

Presently, Instagram, its Thread app, Facebook, and Twitter all provide options to view posts in order of recency, but it isn't the default experience. TikTok, on the other hand, only employs algorithmic content delivery, a strategy contributing to its remarkable success.

Reading Between the Lines on Chronological Feeds

In light of these findings, the recent addition of a chronological feed to Threads, Meta's Twitter-like platform, could be seen as a response to user demands, although Meta might cautiously monitor user reactions.

Time (ha) will tell.

SOCIAL CTA

Meta Unveils Slew of AI Innovations: Bing Integration, Celebrity Bots, and More

Meta Unveils Slew of AI Innovations: Bing Integration, Celebrity Bots, and More

At its annual Connect conference, Meta revealed upcoming AI features for its family of apps. This includes new chatbots voiced by celebrities, AI...

Read More
Meta Unleashes Code Llama: An Open Source AI Model for Code Generation

2 min read

Meta Unleashes Code Llama: An Open Source AI Model for Code Generation

Meta, a frontrunner in the competitive landscape of generative AI technology, is making waves by adopting an open source strategy. Building on...

Read More
Play the Instagram Algorithm: Tried-and-Tested Strategies

Play the Instagram Algorithm: Tried-and-Tested Strategies

Unlocking the secrets behind the Instagram algorithm can be a game-changer for content strategists navigating social media

Read More