Facebook has changed its friend-sorting algorithm a lot since its beginnings. Today, your Facebook profile shows images of nine people who are always on top of the list. You see these nine friends before you enter your friends list.
These lists spark confusion. Some people out of these nine may be users that you haven’t interacted with in a long time. Why does Facebook’s algorithm prioritize them then?
The exact algorithm that makes Facebook identify nine specific profiles is kept secret. However, there are certain parameters that are known to influence this order.
A String of Factors
There are many factors that can affect the Facebook algorithm. Because of this algorithm, some friend list choices may seem confusing. When you need to consider the location, time, interaction, profile clicks, frequency, and many other things, it is difficult to get a clear picture.
In this section, we will take a look at some of the parameters that influence the algorithm.
Facebook tracks how often you chat or exchange messages with certain people. Interactions include both individual and group chats. If you’ve recently interacted with the person, the chances of them appearing on your friends list are higher.
The algorithm collects data about how often you view certain profiles. If the profile views are mutual, meaning that the person whose profile you often visit regularly checks up on your profile too, there’s a high chance they’ll appear on the list.
Profile interactions are not the same as communication. They are wall posts, post likes, and post comments. If you tag someone in your posts, you can increase the algorithm value, too.
These interactions include all comments, likes, and tags in relation to photos on Facebook. For example, when you frequently like somebody’s photos, or when someone frequently tags you in their photos. It even includes photo views – how often you look at somebody’s photos and vice-versa.
Although it is closely connected to profile views, Facebook search is a separate factor. It takes into consideration how often your friends type your name into the search bar. If somebody searches you often and vice-versa, you are fueling the algorithm.
Mutual Friend Interactions
If you and another person have mutual friends and you both interact with them privately, you will climb up each other’s friends lists. Facebook bases a lot of its algorithms on mutual friends, so this parameter is important.
Your recent friends may also get on top of the list. This happens if you have some form of interaction or communication with them.
It is not uncommon that two or three out of nine of your top friends are all your recent friends. The Facebook algorithm looks to push the most recent activity on top.
If your friends are often logged in on Facebook and interact with different pages and profiles, they can move up on your list. The logic is that the people who are more often on Facebook will be those who you will spend most of your time online with. If a person hasn’t been active for months, Facebook doesn’t consider them relevant.
What About Friends in Chat?
Your chat sidebar works in a similar way. The algorithm chooses interactions, activity, communication, photos, etc. This determines which friends will show up on top and have priority. The friends that you communicate with most often will usually be first on this list.
If you have similar people popping up on your ‘People You May Know’ Facebook list, you are probably wondering if the algorithms are similar. Short answer: they are not.
Before, Facebook only used to consider the number of mutual friends. Today, we provide a lot of personal data that Facebook may use to refine friend recommendations. This data includes:
- Location: If you travel abroad and have mutual friends with some people that live nearby, Facebook will recommend them to you.
- Profile views: If someone recently viewed your profile, they might appear as a suggestion.
- Mutual friends: Just like in earlier days, having a lot of mutual friends with another person will encourage Facebook recommend them to you.
- Connected third-party apps: Although Facebook officially denies it, there is a reason to believe this. After all, many users link their Facebook profiles with various apps. If you synced your Facebook account with platforms like Instagram, or even Tinder, it may suggest people that you interacted with on there.
Can You Change Your Friends List?
The friends list on your profile will be periodically updated. Unfortunately, you can’t choose which nine friends it will show.
In the Explore tab on the left side of the homepage, you can click on ‘Friend Lists’ to create new friends lists and edit existing ones. It won’t directly affect your top nine, but you can create a list and add just a handful of friends you interact with the most to ensure you never miss anything they share. This could have some impact on your top nine, especially if you frequently leave likes and comments on their posts.