You’ve probably noticed that Facebook has a popular trending news section found on the right side of your page, but did you know you can control the kinds of content that shows up there? Here’s how to customize it.
If your Facebook friends are anything like mine, they probably fall into two distinct groups: people who post links from the trending news section that Facebook puts on the right side of your page, and people who complain about the trending news section on the right side of your page.
The way it works is pretty indirect. Facebook tries to figure out the topics that interest you by analyzing your feed, your friends’ feeds, and whether you like the current trending news stories. It’s a clever bit of machine learning.
First, let’s take a look at the trending news section. It’s actually a bit more complex than most people realize. There’s a small list of stories, but you can click on an arrow at the bottom of the section to see more stories that are starting to trend.
More relevant, however, is the way that Facebook divides the trending news into five different categories, not unlike a set of Trivial Pursuit questions. From the left, you’ve got Top Trends, Politics, Science and Technology, Sports, and Entertainment.
Unless you explicitly click on a different icon and switch categories, Facebook will always show you the “Top Trends” section, which simply has the top trending stories of the moment – they aren’t limited to any specific category.
If you prefer to see stories about Science or Sports, then, just click on the relevant icon and enjoy a Facebook trending news section free of Hollywood gossip (and if you prefer Hollywood gossip, by all means click on the old timey projector).
You can actually go a step further, however, and directly influence the model that Facebook builds about your preferences.
If you hover over an entry in the trending section, you’ll see a little ‘x’ appear on the right-hand side. Click on the x and that story will disappear. In its place will be a menu of options: Facebook wants to know why you decided that you didn’t like the story, and this is one instance where it pays to give Facebook more information.
If it’s a story that you really don’t care about, choose the first option, and Facebook will adjust your model so that you see fewer stories of that type in the future. If you choose a different entry, Facebook will remove that specific story from your trending news section, but it might not do anything about showing similar stories in the future.
If the Facebook trending news section really bothers you, there’s unfortunately no easy way to turn it off – certainly Facebook doesn’t allow it by default. Instead, you’ll need to resort to installing ad blockers or Facebook browser extensions of uncertain provenance. Generally, it’s easier to just let it stay there, and slowly teach it to show the things you like.