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Posted on Jan 8, 2014

How to Understand Facebook Graph Search

How to Understand Facebook Graph Search


Facebook is one social network that prevents (and often causes) Fear of Missing Out. But there’s another side to the psychology of this, a concept called Motivated Forgetting. It’s a debated topic but it is one that is embraced by a number of doctors. In simple terms it’s the ability to forget experiences that make you angry, sad, anxious, ashamed or afraid. Your brain blocks the memories to protect you. Facebook Graph Search is the opposite of Motivated Forgetting – it remembers everything!


Initially Facebook did not do search well. It had a lot of limits and was not useful except in a handful of specific scenarios. Facebook did (and still does) other things extremely well, including connecting the dots of people’s lives and creating a personal history. Facebook Graph Search now allows users to search through those dots.


The Way We Search


To get a better understanding of this we need to look at how search is used on the internet.


When we think of search we think of impersonal questions, like “restaurants in New Jersey.” The question and the results that will be returned are not personally relevant to the searcher. And the results usually do not directly answer the question of the search. Instead they provide a list of website links on which the answer might be found.


Facebook Graph Search looks at searches differently. Consider the example of restaurants in New Jersey. On Facebook Graph Search you could enter the query “restaurants in New Jersey visited by my friends.” Or you could go further with the query “restaurants in New Jersey liked by my friends.” The results of this search will be much more personal to you than a traditional internet search as you will not only find details of the restaurants, but you will also see recommendations from people that you know.


So, Facebook Graph Search is a search engine that gives user-specific results. Does this make the results more relevant? The answer to that is undoubtedly yes.


However, there are some concerns with Graph Search, particularly over privacy, as everything you have ever posted is now searchable. It was always there but because of the way Facebook worked it was hard to find. To find a comment you made on a post 18 months ago would require tens or even hundreds of clicks on the “More Posts” button to get to that point in your timeline. Old, and potentially embarrassing posts (the ones your brain was “motivated to forget”), were buried under new content. But now, with Facebook Graph Search, all of your posts are retrievable in seconds.


It is likely that users will adapt to this, the same way they adapted to other changes in the way Facebook works. To start with, Graph Search does not override your privacy settings so only people with certain access will be able to find those embarrassing posts.


Big Picture


As users adapt they will start finding content, people and places by Graph Search, but there are a couple of things it’s likely to place more impact upon.


The first is when a big event happens. Currently people turn to Twitter to keep up-to-date with what is happening during a big news event, but Graph Search now puts Facebook in the frame.


The second big impact of Graph Search is likely to be on marketing. Advertising and marketing managers now have a powerful tool that will help them target their ads and messages more directly.


So, Graph Search is as much about you as the results that get tailored to you. You’re able to find information on topics (like big news events) that specifically appear based on your interests. And advertisers will be able to target you with products that you’re likely interested in. And finally, it will show you all those embarrassing things that your brain has spent time blocking from your memory.


That is Facebook Graph Search.


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