When Facebook first came out with the option to subscribe to people, I didn't fully understand the point. However, I've come to understand this handy feature and what it allows you to do.
Lately I've been seeing a flurry of posts on Facebook that, well, let's just say I don't find them relevant to me or what I want to see when I log onto Facebook. I've found that unsubscribing to posts can be a neat (i.e. clean) way to cultivate my stream of incoming status updates, photos, videos and links. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy seeing posts from the people I'm friends with on Facebook, they're just not always the most appropriate thing or relevant to me. It's also worthy to mention the point that the more some of my friends post, it buries posts by those that don't update their statuses as much and as a result, I fall out of touch with the very people Facebook was designed to keep me in the loop with. Fail.
However, there are some noteworthy flaws with the subscription process on Facebook, namely:
- The way items are categorized and thus opted into or out of, and,
- The lack of granular controls over the ability to see that information.
When you post a video or photo on Facebook, it doesn't aways categorize it as such. Unless you upload a video or photo to your account, Facebook recognizes the information as a link, not what it actually is. As a result, when you choose to unsubscribe from photo or video posts from a particular person, it won't stop those posts when that person posts them as a link. It essentially renders this unsubscribe option useless unless your friends share information the way Facebook says you should. I know of supposed social media experts and people with OCD that don't even do this.
Lack of granular controls
Suppose you have someone that does shares photos in proper folders, categorizing them properly in corresponding folders. Facebook's general categorization doesn't allow for granular control over that content when it appears in your news feed. When I say granular control, I mean control of each folder a particular user has on their account. For example, I have a friend who shares a lot of memes on Facebook, some of which I have a tendency to find inappropriate. I can't block those posts, even if they were uploaded to a particular album, because Facebook doesn't allow for that kind of granular control. Either I have to opt into seeing all of their photos in my news feed or none at all. This is unacceptable, as their Instagram photos are semi-relevant to me and I still wish to see those posts. I shouldn't be forced to tolerate 98% crap for 2% of the content that actually interests me. In response, it forces me to widen my social scope and turn to different services (like the Instagram app) to view those posts, which counter-productive if Facebook wants to keep me on their site longer (presumably because the more I click and comment, the more ads they can serve to me, increasing their revenue).
Until Facebook solves what I consider the two most glaring issues with subscribing to news feed content, unsubscribing will be an imperfect practice, but it's certainly an easier-to-swallow pill versus unfriending someone altogether. By unsubscribing, it leaves the "friend" relationship intact, still allowing those who know me to send me messages and permits them to comment on what I choose to share.