The 6 Worst Things About Using Facebook
Facebook is the world’s most popular social network. But despite that popularity, it’s by no means a perfect system. On the average visit to Facebook’s website or one of its mobile apps, you can encounter problems that range from minor annoyances to all-out assaults on etiquette and decency (we’re looking at you, serial oversharers and humble-braggers). From annoying “friends” to creepy ads, these are the worst things about being a regular Facebook user.
1. Seeing eerily well-targeted ads
A common complaint about Facebook is its ads. Not just the prevalence of those ads, but the eery accuracy with which Facebook targets them. Is that the pair of shoes that you looked up the other day, appearing in ad next to the News Feed? And is that promoted post the latest update from the site you read religiously? For users who have experienced these examples and others, it’s becoming increasingly clear that Facebook is sweeping up a huge amount of data in the effort to serve you ads that are relevant to your interests (and informed by your browsing history).
Fortunately, if you find those ads not only annoying, but also downright creepy, there’s a way to limit Facebook’s targeted ads and its ability to track you. Kim Komando reports for USA Today that the easiest way to stop the tracking and the creepy ads is to open Facebook’s desktop site and click the arrow in the upper right-hand corner to access Facebook’s settings. From there, select the Ads category, and toggle the option to show “Ads based on my use of websites and apps” off.
Turning that setting off won’t stop Facebook from showing you ads based on what it learns about you from your likes, posts, and other activities on the social network. But it will prevent Facebook from getting information about your browsing history from its partners, or sending information about you to advertisers.
2. Having to download more than one Facebook app
Facebook ruffled a lot of feathers when it split its messaging functionality off from its main app and required mobile users who wanted to send messages on the go to download the Messenger app. Having to download and navigate between separate Facebook apps is an annoying requirement of staying connected to the world’s largest social network when you’re away from your computer, and Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg acknowledged that he owed users an explanation when the change attracted a lot of negative attention.
As Ellis Hamburger reported for The Verge in late 2014, Zuckerberg acknowledged that “asking everyone in our community to install a new app is a big ask.” But he added that Facebook believes that a mobile app “can only focus on doing one thing well.” Which means that for the main Facebook app, the focus is the News Feed. That means that to do messaging well, Facebook’s team felt that it needed an app that was fast and focused solely on messaging. Hence, the launch of Messenger and the removal of messaging features from Facebook’s main app.
While it’s annoying to have to download and manage multiple apps, it ultimately results in a better user experience for you. Instead of opening Facebook’s main app and having to tap on multiple buttons to access messaging capabilities, you can just open Messenger and go straight to the conversation that you need. If you’re simply unwilling to have multiple Facebook apps installed on your phone, then you can choose. Do you want to be able to browse your News Feed to pass the time you spend waiting in line at the grocery store? Or do you want to be able to message friends who somehow always prefer Facebook to text messaging. Thanks to Facebook’s new mobile strategy, you can make that choice, and have a great experience with whichever app you choose.
3. Constantly scrolling by auto-playing videos
Most of the time when you’re browsing your News Feed, you can stop to read the content that you’re interested and just scroll by what doesn’t interest you. But the videos that your friends post or share automatically play as you’re scrolling through your News Feed, which can cause a constant annoyance as the videos play unwanted audio (and use data to load content that you have no intention of watching). In some cases, Facebook users have been outraged by the consequences of the feature, such as when many users shared footage of the on-air murders of a TV reporter and camera man. Thanks to the autoplay feature, the video clips automatically played in users’ News Feeds, exposing them to the violent footage whether they wanted to watch it or not.
Luckily, there’s an easy way to fix the autoplay problem (whether your concern is violent videos or simply gratuitous numbers of cat videos). To turn off autoplay on Facebook’s Android app or its iOS app, just navigate to the app’s settings and find the option to turn off autoplay. That will prevent videos from automatically loading and playing and, depending on how many videos your Facebook friends share on an average day, could end up saving you a little bit of data and device battery life. To disable autoplay videos on Facebook’s desktop site, navigate to the main settings menu, select videos, and toggle the autoplay setting to off.
4. Dealing with Facebook’s search functionality
Facebook’s search box works pretty well if you’re looking for one of your friends. But the search functionality is notoriously unreliable if you’re looking for specific posts that you vaguely remember seeing in your News Feed. But as Raymond Wong recently reported for Mashable, the situation is going to improve soon. Facebook is currently piloting a program for iPhone and desktop users who have requested an easier way to search for posts within a user’s profile. The pilot is limited in scope, and an official launch hasn’t yet been announced, but the program indicates that Facebook’s search functionality is likely to improve soon.
If you gain access to the new feature, you’ll be able to search your own profile, or friends’ profiles, for keywords like topics or publications from which they’ve shared content. The tool, if Facebook rolls it out to all users of its social network, will simplify the process of looking for specific posts or comments. That would be particularly useful if, for instance, y0u remember that one of your friends shared an article that you intended to read, but didn’t have the time to sit down with your smartphone at the time you first saw it.
5. Declining an endless stream of game invitations
Ever since FarmVille and Candy Crush rose to popularity, you’ve likely had several friends who just won’t give up on sending you a never-ending series of invitations to join them in wasting time with these games. Judgment about how you spend your bored moments in line aside, sometimes you just want all of those notifications to stop appearing. Fortunately for you, Facebook hears you and is sending help.
As Sarah E. Needleman reported for The Wall Street Journal recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg is aware of the problem, and has promised to do something about that constant stream of notifications nagging you to download time-wasting games to play them with your friends. The topic came up at one of Facebook’s Q&A sessions, where Zuckerberg noted that a question about stopping the notifications had been voted the most popular ahead of the session. He credited users in India, where the town hall session was held, for alerting him to the gravity of the problem, and said that he’d asked the head of Facebook’s developer platform to look into a solution before the session even began.
Game invitations are designed to reward users, but are a nuisance to people who don’t ever intend to play the games. In the case of Candy Crush Saga, for instance, the more requests you send to others to play the game, the more lives you receive in return. Zuckerberg said that since it’s become clear that doing away with these annoying notifications is a priority for users, Facebook is going to prioritize a fix, too.
6. Being friends with every species of insufferable Facebook user
Sometimes you want to remain Facebook friends with someone, but simply can’t put up with their constant appearances in your News Feed. Depending on your social network, you may be familiar with a number of different kinds of offenders. There’s the serial selfie poster and the amateur photographer who just can’t resist uploading hundreds of photos of even a weekend trip. There’s the weird college acquaintance who constantly posts extensive political rants, or the gullible neighbor who reposts every chain letter and Facebook hoax. Then there are the friends who tag you in all kinds of posts that are completely irrelevant to you, or those who post cryptic statuses to try to get others’ attention.
While the behavior (and likely the psychological diagnosis) for each of these Facebook users differs widely, what they all have in common is that you don’t have to put up with their posts dominating your News Feed. (And you don’t have to unfriend them to accomplish that.) The next time that one of the offending posts pops up in your News Feed, just click the arrow at the right of the post. You can opt to unfollow the user — so that you don’t see anything that he or she posts, but you still remain friends — or opt just to see less of what he or she posts in your News Feed. Either way, you can save your sanity, and your friendship, by no longer subjecting yourself to this person’s specific type of social media faux pas.
More from Gear & Style Cheat Sheet:
- 12 Signs That You Use Your Smartphone Too Much
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- 24 Best Apps to Install on Your New iPhone
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