Election 2016: How to filter politically sanctimonious Facebook posts from your news feed

Are your friends silly for Hillary? Crazy for Cruz? Facebook is alive with all sorts of requests to share annoying negative political posts and graphics. Here's how to mute most of it.

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I love my Facebook friends. I do, I really do. Many of my Facebook friends are people who I've had real or virtual relationships with for over a decade, some even much longer.

But just because I am friends with many people and we have common interests doesn't mean we agree on everything. And nothing gets more contentious on Facebook than when you start seeing endless streams of stuff -- be it rants or pictures -- that you don't agree with, or even worse makes your blood pressure rise to dangerous levels or just plain upsets you.

The political situation right now in the United States is incredibly divisive, and I've seen people lose real friendships over political discussions. In fact, it happened to me during the previous election cycle.

A friend who I would consider a very close acquaintance of over ten years -- who my wife and I have dined with on many occasions, and have several mutual friends with -- "defriended" me on Facebook and won't even correspond with me over email because I told him I would vote for a different political candidate than he would.

It all started because he made a Facebook post about a political subject, and I was stupid enough to engage in a heated conversation with him on his post about it. I thought it was spirited discourse; he was insulted.

I don't want this to happen again, and quite frankly, I'm getting a bit annoyed by the huge volume of political material for and against both sides of the fence -- Democrat and Republican and all shades in-between and to the extremes -- that it's actually ruining my Facebook experience.

Frankly I wish Facebook had some way to filter out this kind of stuff and tag posts of a political nature (or of any nature, really) but they don't have this kind of technology.

Fortunately you can take matters into your own hands with Socialfixer.

socialfixerlogo

Go to the Socialfixer web site and install it on your browser -- they support Google Chrome, Firefox and Apple Safari. Unfortunately at this time Internet Explorer isn't supported, but they're working on it.

After installing Socialfixer on your browser, go to Facebook. You'll notice that Socialfixer has reformatted your view a bit. That's one of the things the software does, which is the ability to tweak a lot of visual stuff.

At the upper right of the screen, you'll see a wrench next to your Facebook avatar as shown below. Click it, and choose "Social Fixer Options"

facebook-socialfix-wrench

After the Socialfixer configuration screen comes up, click on the Filtering menu on the left.

socialfixer-createfilter

In the text box where it says "Other" I want you to cut and paste in the following text string:

/politic|Hillary|Clinton|Bush|Cruz|Rubio|Rand|Paul|Obama|Ryan|Biden|Democrat|Republican|RNC|DNC|Tea Party|Convention|Right-Wing|Left-Wing|Liberal|Conservative|Religious Right|Red State|Blue State|Senate|Congress|GOP|MoveOn\.org|Reagan|Hate Crime|Gun|neocon|fascist|Rush Limbaugh|Bill O'Reilly|Bill Maher|John Oliver|Daily Show|Colbert|Sean Hannity|candidate|FOX News|Senator|Representative|Sen\.|Rep\.|President/i

It has to be pasted exactly like that, using the leading and trailing slashes and the "i" at the end, or it won't work. The "i" by the way stands for case insensitive, so it doesn't matter how the filtered keyword is capitalized.

This is called a regular expression, or a "regex" in computer programming. If you actually want to see stuff that uses some of these terms on your main feed, then you need to take them out between the pipe symbols separating each term or keyword.

I've chosen to nuke everything I can think of that could have political content on it, on both sides of the spectrum.

After you paste in the text for the regex, go to the Action column, enable the checkbox for Move to tab and then type in Political Posts in the text field directly under it.

Hit Save (on the top of the screen) and then refresh your Facebook page. You'll see something that looks like this:

facebook-filtered

Cool, right? All that junk that you don't want to see has been moved over to the Political Posts tab. If you want to check to see if your friends have actually posted something worth reading, then you can click on that tab and all the posts which matched the regex will be in there.

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By default Socialfixer only caches a small amount of posts at a time. So you might want to go into the configuration menu, choose the Popular tab on the very top, find Auto-click "Older Posts" and put in a number like 8, and enable the checkbox.

Keep in mind the more posts you want to pull in at a time, the harder the plugin has to work, and the longer it takes to refresh your Facebook feed with the filtered posts.

Now, this method isn't foolproof. Some posts are going to inevitably escape the filter because they might just be graphics with no introductory text or keywords to trigger it.

If something gets through and it has an identifiable keyword that isn't in the filter's vocabulary, go back into Socialfixer and the Filtering menu and add it to the list on the regex, using pipe characters to separate them. It may require additional refinement over time.

But stuff without keywords is still going to fall through the cracks in your news feed. That's a limitation of the technology. You can just plain tolerate it and look the other way, or if you have friends that are constantly posting this kind of crap, simply go to their profile page.

Here's the header of the profile page of ZDNet Editor in Chief Larry Dignan, who I am friends with.

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Where it says Following which I have circled, uncheck it. The friend will no longer appear in your main Facebook news feed anymore. They can interact with your posts and shared content using the permissions you've allowed friends to do, but to see their posts, you'll have to go directly into their profile.

It's a bit severe, I know, but it's better than actually "defriending" someone, which should be considered a last resort.

Have you had to filter out your friends because they are going too political? Talk Back and Let Me Know.

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