Can Somebody Please Tell Facebook's Algorithm Hillary Lost?

Gil C/Shutterstock.com

Hopeful pre-election selfies are still high up in news feeds, even after Clinton’s defeat.

My Facebook feed, on election day, was a study in contrasts. There were “Make America Great Again” hats on one side and primary-colored pantsuits on the other. The Hillary Clinton supporters in my feed, many of them women, were especially pronounced. For one thing, there are a lot of them. And many of the Clinton supporters I know clearly felt compelled to share what Nov. 8 meant to them: They often appeared in selfie form, grinning and wearing “I Voted” stickers, ready to watch history affirm what all little girls are told: A woman can be president. A woman will be president. Someday.

It hasn’t happened yet. After Hillary Clinton’s defeat in the 2016 presidential race, American women are back to wondering whether a woman will be elected president in their lifetimes. And Facebook, resistant as ever to acknowledging its role as the world’s most powerful media company, hasn’t exactly caught up with the news.

The result: My Facebook feed this morning is a disorienting mesh of hope and anguish. It’s still filled with so many of those pantsuit selfies—along with the Clinton-supporting dads who took their daughters to the polls to witness history, and even the guy who found in his closet the nearest approximation of a Clintonesque pantsuit to wear to work yesterday—all mixed in with stunned reactions to the outcome of the race. (The Trump supporters I know have been mostly, though not entirely, restrained in their Facebook celebrating.)

This is because Facebook doesn’t rely on chronology or newsworthiness to determine what tops your feed. Any given Facebook post is prominent in large part because of how much engagement it has already gotten. (See also: the writer Katie Notopoulos’s case study involving Facebook and overnight oats.)

So when a friend’s smiling, pro-Clinton voting selfie gets 83 likes, that image might linger high up in your feed for days—despite her subsequent posts about disappointment with the outcome of the election, or another friend’s post about binge-watching "Lord of the Rings" clips as a post-election coping mechanism, or any other newer updates for that matter. (Instagram, too, is a mishmash of pre-election and post-election sentiment this way. Even Twitter, still the most real-timey of social publishing platforms, isn’t strictly  chronological anymore either.)

Of course, Facebook isn’t just where people overwhelmingly go to find the news. It’s also where they go to process major events. In my feed today, for instance, you’ll find Dalai Lama quotes and anti-anxiety gifs aplenty.

Among the Clinton supporters I know, there is a palpable sense of despair: I see a friend from high school and her husband wearing all black in protest. I see many, many parents of young children describing the agony of breaking the news of the election to them. I see messages of disbelief, sorrow and anger. People are scared.

But then there are the smiling ghosts from yesterday. Scroll past one and two more appear. For every status of mourning, there is another image of yesterday’s hope. They are wearing bright colors and big smiles. And I can’t stop looking at them. Partly because they won’t go away. And maybe they shouldn’t. There they are, staring directly into the camera, challenging us all to remember how things almost went differently, promising that someday they will.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.