A Guide to Freeing Your Social Feeds From Annoying Algorithms

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Instagram, TikTok, Facebook and others offer tools to freshen up your feeds.


Photo illustration by Rachel Mendelson/The Wall Street Journal; iStock (2)

By guest author Cordilia James from the Wall Street Journal.

April 15, 2023

Do you ever get the feeling social-media algorithms are a little too eager to please?

Hover a beat too long on a workout TikTok, and suddenly you get fitness fever. Save an Instagram Reel about cats, and it’s feline overflow. Like a few tweets about people starting new jobs, and your Twitter timeline becomes a career counselling centre.

Tech companies’ algorithms are the secret sauce that make their apps so popular. They use your likes, comments and other online behavior to gauge what you’re likely to interact with. The goal of algorithms is to keep you in the app as long as possible. But it isn’t always what you want, at least not in those quantities.

That’s when it’s time for a reset—something companies have lately made a bit easier to do.

Last month, TikTok began rolling out a tool that lets users refresh their For You feeds, essentially rebuilding the recommendations from scratch. Meta Platforms, parent of Facebook META 0.52%increase; green up pointing triangle and Instagram, made it easier to manage suggested content directly in each app’s feeds in recent months.

Here are ways to regain some control over what you see in those apps and others.


TikTok’s algorithm monitors shares, likes, comments and who you follow to figure out what to show you next. A WSJ investigation found that how long you linger or watch a video is enough for it to guess.

To reset TikTok’s suggestions, try the new Refresh feature. In an up-to-date TikTok app, go to Settings > Content preferences > Refresh your For You feed. Some users already have access to this, while others will see it in an update over the next couple of weeks, a TikTok spokesman says.

TikTok’s new refresh feature resets the algorithm for what users see on the For You feed.Photo: TikTok

If you want to fine-tune, there are other options. You can stop videos with certain hashtags or keywords from appearing in the Following or For You feeds. Mobile users can open the Profile tab, tap the three horizontal lines in the top right, then tap Settings and privacy > Content preferences > Filter video keywords.

Just remember, filtering keywords only works if the creator included that text in the video or its description. A DIY video that doesn’t have “DIY” written somewhere in the post can still slip through. Generic terms or hashtags—such as #fyp (“For You page”) and #fyf (“For You feed”)—can’t be filtered.

You can also long press a specific video in your For You feed and tap Not interested > Details to minimize exposure to a particular creator or even a particular audio clip.


Instagram suggests posts based on whom you follow, as well as what posts you’ve liked, saved or commented on. A year ago the platform introduced Following and Favorites feeds, so you can view posts in chronological order from accounts you follow. Access them on mobile by tapping the drop-down arrow next to the Instagram logo.

You can also pause suggested posts for 30 days. In the profile tab, tap the three lines in the top right, then tap Settings > Suggested content > Snooze suggested posts in feed. The “Suggested content” page also lets you hide specific words, phrases and emojis, though they need to be in the post’s caption for the filter to catch them, an Instagram spokeswoman says.

Instagram’s Suggested content page lets users filter out posts that don’t interest them. Photo: Instagram

Tapping the three dots next to a suggested post gives you the option to mark it as “Not Interested.” This hides the post and tells the algorithm you may not want to see similar content, the spokeswoman says.


The factors Facebook uses to suggest posts include what you and others in your network interacted with, the topics you engaged with, your location and the interests of people near you.

To manage these suggestions in Facebook’s mobile apps, tap the three dots in the post’s top right. Then tap “Show more” or “Show less.” You can also tap Hide post to see fewer posts like it in general.

Users can tweak suggested posts directly in the Facebook feed. Photo: Cordilia James/The Wall Street Journal

Like Instagram, Facebook lets you give priority to certain people and pages by managing favourites. If you get too much from one account, you can snooze it so it won’t appear for a given time. Or you can unfollow it, so it won’t appear at all, while you and the account holder remain friends.

On the web, click your profile picture in the top right, then select Settings & privacy > Feed > Favourites, Snooze or Unfollow people and groups. On iOS, tap the three lines in the bottom right, then tap the gear icon at the top right. Under Preferences, tap News Feed > Favourites, Snooze or Unfollow.

Twitter, Snapchat and YouTube

Twitter’s For You timeline recommends tweets based on topics and accounts you follow. To tweak this on mobile, open Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Content you see > Interests. Add or remove topics by selecting Topics instead of Interests.

You can also get Twitter to stop showing you tweets that include certain words, phrases, usernames, emojis or hashtags. In iOS, open Settings and privacy > Privacy and safety > Mute and block > Muted words > Add. For Android, tap the Notifications tab then the gear icon, then “Muted words.”

On Snapchat for iOS and Android, you can limit the types of videos suggested to you in Snapchat’s Spotlight tab. Tap the three dots in the bottom right of a video, then tap “I don’t like.”

YouTube viewers can stop a specific video or channel from being recommended to them using the “Not interested” and “Don’t recommend channel” buttons. These controls won’t prevent entire topics or viewpoints from being recommended to you. That’s by design, says a YouTube spokeswoman, so you don’t get trapped in an “echo chamber” of similar opinions.