Who is Viewing Your Facebook Page?

Have you wondered how does Facebook determine which friends show up in the chat sidebar? I bet all of you have experiences with to see friends that you interacted a lot not appearing on the list while others that you rarely talk with (since you’ve met that person only once but added his/her Facebook anyways) come up on the top of the list. I have also paid attention to the people who are appearing on my list. People in the list were not necessarily those who have been interacting with me most frequently or recently. In other words, it does not seem to proportional to the amount of likes, comments, and shares. Hence, many users in fact guess about the algorithm behind the list and order of friends appearing as “active” with green dots next to their names. Some assumptions claim it is based on how often they visit your page. Others say they are ones who messages the most. There are in fact various guesses and plausible analyses, but the most accurate answer is still unknown.


How about suggestions on “People You May Know?” Recall that Facebook, just like all other social networks out there, asks for contact info such as e-mail address and phone numbers when you sign up for the first time, telling you this information will help you finding friends on Facebook. As you enrich your profile with your jobs, schools, home town, and current city, Facebook uses them to find your friends accordingly. Thanks to powerful network effect of social media, mutual friends and even friends of friends are suggested to become your Facebook friends. At some point, you start to see random “suggested friends” that you have never met before, but they are simply from same home town per say. Logics behind both chatting list and friend suggestions are still mysterious as there are endless questions of WHY and HOW all these random people show up on my Facebook.


At the same time, another huge question arises in our minds. “What extent are we allowed to be in a private area?” Knowing which users are looking at my page has the question of whether the information of the users I access is private or not, even if the policy does not show. In other words, records of my activities (visiting others’ timeline, commenting on someone’s page, or even not hitting a like button for my best friend’s new profile picture) will remain, and I wonder “Isn’t that record also my private area?” More importantly, what are circumstance of private area that I agreed to share on the internet? The terms of agreements between the and the service provider exist, but the separation of the private areas is still unclear. When you set information only visible to yourself, it is questionable whether the boundaries of the private area are excluding the system administrator who has full control.


The primary motivation of wondering the lists of (suggested) friends on Facebook comes from your instinct to take control of your own private area. As our living areas stay on the Internet, our personal life has become a world that is more familiar to the Internet than myself. We are also willing to actively communicate such personal activities by sharing pictures of what we ate, where we went, and reviews and feelings from those experiences. It is helpful information for others, especially when there are tons of information accessible throughout multiple sources. Meanwhile, we start feeling uneasy as the amount of information becomes too big to take control by ourselves. As a result, we want to know who is viewing my page, but we have to speculate through the list of friends and the information that shows us a variety of things since you do not have clear answers for those secret algorithms.


In the end, we cannot even know who has viewed my page. We cannot tell if the friend list is organized by what reason as well. It is in-platform policy that it is not possible to provide that principle to curious users. So you can wonder why, but must follow it regardless. For most of cases, since you are prone to so many data from you being shared somewhere you do not recognize, you might want to ensure whether or not such information falls within a private area. But, is the information only I can see protected by the private area? Unfortunately, all such principles are subject to the judgment and decision of the service provider. Also, do you believe that the information is protected if it is not explained by the service provider or not? The majority of web services that we use every day are missing concrete concept of private areas. We need to agree upon the circumstances of the private areas at least wherein personal information should not be used for any other purposes.



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  1. I think part of the reasons these algorithms are not disclosed is that they are constantly in flux. Platforms are constantly “tweaking” their algorithms to improve their performance, and are often running multiple different versions for different users at different times.

  2. murphycobc · ·

    I am ALWAYS curious about this – and I remember the many scams of people clicking on links to “find out”. I think that part of human curiosity will never be satisfied.

    And I think Prof. Kane nails it – they don’t release the algorithms because I’m confident they change day by day. Especially because the Facebook and Instagram feeds I see now, are different than the ones I’ve seen last year, or the year before. Which is both really cool – tech is truly constantly changing around us – and wildly annoying – I do not need t know what my summer camp director’s kids are doing today since we haven’t spoken since 2012.

  3. bc_eagle1 · ·

    *Business perspective
    Embrace this an opportunity to dig into your marketing skills. Trying to understand an evolving and complex formula is interesting, but that is like me trying to be an expert in FB ads (which is constantly changing). You are being targeted everyday and opt out what you don’t want to see. Interesting to think about though, to be honest I want more people to find me that I want to connect with vs trying to hide myself. As a marketer, your job will be to know these polices and they certainly will make things a little harder. If you did understand the algorithm, your FB targeting would be a lot better. Keep digging.

  4. tylercook95 · ·

    Nice Post! I think you touched on a really interesting double standard here where we want to know how people show up on our recommended friends, how they show up on the lists, and who is viewing our information. Yet at the same time, we don’t want people to have access to OUR data when it comes to those things, like having people know when I view their profile. As some of our classmates have mentioned the changing algorithm, it made me think about how as a company Facebook is constantly trying to improve their service. It also made me wonder if they are spending so much time on this, why they couldn’t put a little more effort into data security to protect our data. Priorities facebook, priorities. I agree I want to take control of my private information and areas, however, I also feel that anything I have on Facebook and anything that I do on Facebook is very out of the “private area” simply because it is on a social media site. Anything that I want to be private I can’t really let facebook know or have in terms of data. Especially considering the recent breaches. Overall great post, it would be interesting to see that algorithm or even an old version of it.

  5. HenryChenChen · ·

    Great Post, I have thought about this question before that how does Facebook know who are my friends in reality.I thought this is so creepy that I don’t want to post any thing on Facebook, and I don’t use Facebook very often. My reason is identical to your point that he separation of the private areas in FaceBook is still unclear. This reminds me of Professor Kane’s point that some people use Facebook because they can stalking you, and this is the reason why they don’t show who reviewed your pages. So I personally think the algorithms has something to do with viewing your page, and I also agree that the algorithms changes overtime. Great post!

  6. nescrivag · ·

    Super interesting post because I feel like everyone who uses Facebook has wondered about this a few times. I remember one of my friends exchanged numbers with someone and they had no common friends on Facebook at all. The next, that person was a “People you may know” suggestion, which really freaked her out because that means that Facebook makes connections through the different types of information available for a person (email addresses, hometowns, phone numbers etc.).
    I think we will never know exactly how this information is determined because companies are always improving their algorithms in order to show the most relevant information for their users. If you think about it, most of us have between 500 and 2000 friends on Facebook but very few things show up on our Time Line. This is because Facebook’s algorithm quickly searches for the things that it thinks will provide more value to us. Since it keeps changing, I doubt it will ever be perfectly finalized for us to understand how these all these things are determined.
    This post was a good reflection about what most of us are thinking!

  7. Tully Horne · ·

    @tylercook95 said exactly what I was thinking. Knowing Facebook is a social media site, I understand that anything I genuinely want to keep in private should not go on the site. The recent data scandal with Facebook really freaked people out, but it honestly did not surprise me. Facebook has access to so much data that it can do powerful things with it — good and bad. The biggest thing is trust. It is definitely creepy to think that Facebook can bring up people in suggested friends we would not have even thought to show up there, but I don’t see anything wrong with what they do. Although we don’t know their algorithms, it’s a fair assumption that they take data we have agreed to make public to them and try to use it to connect us to people we may want to add. After all, that’s the core of Facebook as a social network and it’s how they continue to grow and strengthen their platform. As much as we love to have some privacy in every aspect of our lives, it’s hard to come by in something like “social” media. I also agree with @bceagle1 that it is cool to look at this as an opportunity to look deeper into Facebook and how they try to connect us with others. Understanding how they do so may bring you to realizations about the key to building a platform if that is something you are interested in. Great post!

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