A large part of Facebook's profits come from what its users will and won't "Like." The like button is useful because it gives Facebook a better idea of what ads you would most likely be interested in.
An experiment by Wired reporter Mat Honan revealed what happens when you throw caution to the wind and start liking everything on Facebook. Instead of picking a social media specialty like funny cat pictures, political posts or viral videos that reflect what he's feeling, Honan opted to become a social media yes man.
You might have already noticed that having a history of likes for a specific topic actually increases the number of posts that Facebook will show you from that topic. If you're an active visitor to my Facebook page, you'll probably receive more of my updates than someone who has never liked or commented on a post.
It's mostly because there's simply too much content on Facebook to absorb in one sitting, so the site shows your post to a group of people it decides are your "close" friends and then gauges how popular it is before showing it to more people. Honan threw everything out of whack by enjoying every piece of content the site could throw at him.
Let’s say you like a story about cows that you see on Modern Farmer. Facebook will immediately present you with four more options to like things below that cow story, “relateds” in Facebook parlance. Probably more stories about cows or agriculture.
Honan's problem was that the "related" posts that appeared after he liked something never stopped coming. Instead of just liking a post about cows, he showed Facebook's marketing robots that he was a cowboy at heart by liking posts about roping, rodeos and ranching equipment.
The more active you get on pages that aren't close to your social network, though, the more content you start seeing from people who aren't your friends.
Nearly my entire feed was given over to Upworthy and the Huffington Post. As I went to bed that first night and scrolled through my News Feed, the updates I saw were (in order): Huffington Post, Upworthy, Huffington Post, Upworthy, a Levi’s ad, Space.com, Huffington Post, Upworthy, The Verge, Huffington Post, Space.com, Upworthy, Space.com.
In the social media marketing world, there's a type of person called an "influencer." Most of the viral content that you either love or hate comes from people who Facebook has identified as an influencer. They are, on the most basic level, people who are willing to share stuff on social media.
Facebook's algorithm most likely identified Honan as an influencer and then tried to milk him for all of the marketing dollars he was worth. Little did they know, he was exposing their tricks. Facebook isn't the only thing that spies on you, though, check out these three things that you can't stop from spying on your browsing habits.