In November, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg started sprinkling a new phrase, or perhaps a new idea, into his quarterly call with investors. “It’s important to remember that Facebook is about bringing people closer together and enabling meaningful social interactions,” he said. Research, he continued, demonstrates that interactions with friends and family on social media is particularly “meaningful.” The goal of his service is to “encourage meaningful social interactions” and to connect in ways that lead to “meaningful interactions” and let us “build meaningful relationships.”
Clearly something was up. In December, Facebook researchers, worked the word “meaningful” seven times into a blog post about the value of social media. “We want Facebook to be a place for meaningful interactions,” they wrote, explaining findings that the passive use of social media can be alienating but active use can be beneficial.
Thursday, Zuckerberg more fully explained how this quest for meaning will be worked into the core of its platform: Facebook is changing the algorithm that powers its newsfeed, the service at its core and the mechanism that increasingly determines how news and information spread throughout the world.
“We built Facebook to help people stay connected and bring us closer together with the people that matter to us. Research shows that strengthening our relationships improves our well-being and happiness,” Zuckerberg wrote in a blog post. “But recently we’ve gotten feedback from our community that public content – posts from businesses, brands and media – is crowding out the personal moments that lead us to connect more with each other. Based on this, we’re making a major change to how we build Facebook. I’m changing the goal I give our product teams from focusing on helping you find relevant content to helping you have more meaningful social interactions.”