scorecardHow to switch your Facebook feed to a chronological timeline
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How to switch your Facebook feed to a chronological timeline

Isobel Asher Hamilton   

How to switch your Facebook feed to a chronological timeline
Tech2 min read
  • Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen says the company's algorithms amplify harmful content.
  • She believes that switching to a chronological feed would be one way to make Facebook healthier.

Debates around how Facebook and its parent company Meta could make its platform safer for users heated up in 2021 after whistleblower Frances Haugen started leaking company documents to the press last September. She followed that up with appearances before lawmakers in the US and beyond.

One of the main points Haugen has made during her various testimonies is related to "engagement-based ranking."

Engagement-based ranking is when social media companies like Meta create algorithms that determine where pieces of content are placed on your feed to try and maximise engagement.

Although the documents Haugen leaked covered a wide range of issues including misinformation, hate speech, and teen mental health, she believes getting rid of engagement-based ranking and replacing it with chronological news feeds is one way of tackling the diverse set of problems Facebook and its affiliated platforms face.

You can already toggle your Facebook News Feed so it displays posts in chronological order, rather than letting its algorithms decide what you see first.

Here's how to do it on the Facebook app on your phone:

In the top right-hand corner of the app click on the "menu" icon — which looks like three horizontal lines.

Once on the menu screen, scroll to the bottom and hit the "see more" button.

You'll see a box labelled "recent and favorites" — click it.

Here's how to do it on your browser:

When you load up Facebook on your browser, go to the sidebar on the left-hand side of the page. Scroll down until you see "most recent" and click it — this will set your feed to chronological order.

Facebook doesn't let you make the chronological feed your default setting so you have to toggle it on every time you visit the site.

Meta-owned Instagram scrapped its chronological feed in 2016, but Instagram boss Adam Mosseri announced that the platform plans to re-introduce an option for a chronological feed in the first half of this year.

It's possible that, in future, Meta will have to make the option to switch to chronological feeds easier and more prominent, as House and Senate lawmakers have introduced bills aimed at forcing social media companies to do exactly that.

Experts on misinformation and hate speech don't necessarily think chronological feeds will solve the problems on Facebook. Kate Starbird, professor at the University of Washington's Department of Human Centered Design and Engineering, told Protocol last October that bad actors might find a chronological feed easier to spam.

"In a purely chronological [feed], to get your stuff to the top, you just put out more and more crap," Starbird told Protocol.