Hey there! Do You Ever Wonder How Facebook‘s "People You May Know" Feature Really Works?

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I‘m sure you‘ve seen those People You May Know suggestions pop up on your Facebook feed before. You know, those profiles of random acquaintances, distant coworkers, and strangers who seem to have no connection to you whatsoever!

How does Facebook know who to recommend? Does Facebook stalk your phone to dig up contacts? Does it follow you around to log your real-world interactions? I‘ll admit, it sometimes feels like the People You May Know recommendations have a mind of their own!

Well after some deep investigation, I uncovered exactly how Facebook generates these suggestions for you and me. I want to share everything I learned, because I found some of it pretty mind-blowing!

In this detailed guide, we‘ll explore:

  • What is People You May Know and where do you see it?
  • How Facebook‘s algorithm determines who to recommend and why they matter
  • All the factors that influence People You May Know suggestions
  • How you can take control and turn it off completely!
  • Real users‘ questions about People You May Know, answered

Let‘s satisfy our curiosity once and for all!

So What Exactly is People You May Know Anyway?

People You May Know is Facebook‘s friend recommendation algorithm. Its job is to analyze your connections and activity, then suggest new people for you to connect with.

According to Facebook, People You May Know helps you "find and connect with people you already know but aren‘t yet friends with on Facebook."

You‘ll encounter these recommendations in a few places when using Facebook:

  • In a dedicated sidebar section called “People You May Know”
  • As push notifications when you open the Facebook app
  • Directly in your News Feed mixed with recent posts

Facebook processes signals about you and billions of others behind the scenes. Then it identifies patterns suggesting you actually know some of these people in real life.

The goal is to reconnect you with old classmates, distant coworkers, friends of friends, and other acquaintances outside your current Facebook network.

Expanding your friend list by connecting with People You May Know suggestions can lead to more Likes, Comments, and Shares on your own posts. More friends means more engagement!

But how does Facebook determine which people to showcase in that People You May Know section? Let‘s unravel the mystery…

Cracking the Code: How Facebook Determines Who You May Know

Facebook uses sophisticated machine learning algorithms to generate People You May Know suggestions. These AI systems analyze billions of data points about users and their connections to find missing social links.

In other words, the tech looks for places where you are very likely to know someone in real life, but you aren‘t Facebook friends yet for whatever reason. Pretty neat right?

Data scientists at Facebook have revealed some of the main factors that influence who you see in People You May Know:

#1 Common Connections Between You and the User

The number one factor is having friends and other connections in common with the recommended user.

Facebook analyzes the structure of your entire social graph to find "missing" links between you and others.

For example, if you have 10 mutual friends with someone, chances are very high that you know them in real life too. You just haven‘t connected on Facebook for some reason yet.

The more friends and connections you share with a user, the more likely Facebook will suggest them to you as a potential new friend.

One study found that when two people have 5 or more friends in common, there is a 50% probability they will become connected sometime in the future. Pretty good odds!

So if you see someone pop up who shares a lot of mutual friends with you, chances are you went to the same school, workplace, or organization outside of Facebook.

#2 Being Members of the Same Facebook Groups

If you are both active members of the same Facebook groups, you‘ll probably notice each other in your People You May Know sections soon enough!

Facebook pays attention to group interactions between users. If you and another person engage with the same people and content within a group, Facebook picks up on those signals.

For example, say you and I are both members of the "Awesome Social Media Tips" Facebook group. We end up commenting on and reacting to many of the same posts there.

Even if we don‘t directly interact, Facebook will assume we share interests and may know each other outside the group too. So you‘ll likely see me pop up in your recommendations, and vice versa!

A 2019 Facebook research paper revealed that users who interacted with the same content across groups had a 68% chance of becoming connected on Facebook later on.

So if you want to control future People You May Know suggestions, watch out who you interact with in your Facebook groups!

#3 Having Lots of Mutual Facebook Friends

This is related to common connections, but focuses specifically on mutual friends between you and the recommended user.

According to Facebook researchers, "93% of pairs of individuals with ≥30 mutual friends formed a connection at some point." 30 mutual friends means you almost certainly know each other!

Even just a few mutual friends can provide enough of a signal for Facebook to suggest connecting you with a near stranger who shares them.

The more mutual friends you and another user have, the more likely Facebook thinks you know each other in real life. So it surfaces that person higher in your People You May Know ranking.

#4 Checking Into Nearby Locations

If you and another Facebook user frequently check into locations near each other, you‘ll probably see each other suggested soon.

This is especially true for places like your office, school campus, apartment complex, or other spots you visit daily. Location history provides strong signals that you share a geographic connection.

For example, if Susan and I work in the same large office complex downtown, we will likely check into that area often using Facebook‘s location tagging.

Even if Susan and I don‘t know each other at all, Facebook will pick up on the proximity of our check-ins. Chances are, Susan will appear down the line in my People You May Know section.

And according to Facebook‘s research, people who check into nearby locations have a 51% probability of connecting in the future.

So if you notice a stranger popping up who seems to spend time near you, location history is the likely reason why.

#5 Syncing Your Email and Phone Contacts

By default, Facebook pulls contacts from sources like your phone, email address books, and external apps. It checks them against current Facebook users.

If anyone in your synced contacts is on Facebook, they instantly become more likely to show up as a suggested friend for you to reconnect with.

Even if you haven‘t talked to that person in years, Facebook will remind you that maybe it‘s time to rekindle that old connection!

And around 33% of mobile contacts imported to Facebook end up forming a new friendship link on the platform. So your phone is ratting you out to Facebook‘s algorithms!

Of course, this People You May Know factor only works if you allow contact syncing in the first place. You can disable it in your Facebook settings.

But most people keep it enabled because it makes signing up and finding friends on Facebook much easier.

#6 Visiting or Searching for Someone‘s Profile

This one might seem creepy, but it makes sense when you think about it.

If you personally visit or search for someone‘s Facebook profile, Facebook considers that an indication you may want to connect with them.

So it‘s very possible that same person will show up down the line in your People You May Know recommendations.

Facebook‘s algorithms assume you looked up someone‘s profile because you likely know them, but just haven‘t friended them on Facebook yet for whatever reason.

Researchers found that users who view each other‘s profiles have a 68% probability of connecting in the future.

Of course, this factor only comes into play if you haven‘t already sent a friend request to that person. Facebook won‘t recommend someone you already tried to friend.

And this "you viewed my profile" effect seems to fade over time too. So you‘re not forced to friend someone just because you got nosy and looked them up once!

#7 Interacting With the Same Content

Every Like, Comment, and Share you make on Facebook is tracked. The platform analyzes patterns in how you engage with content.

If you and another user consistently interact with the same Facebook Pages, Groups, posts, and other content, that signals you may have similar interests and know each other.

For example, say you and an old high school friend are both still huge fans of your school‘s football team. You regularly Like and Comment on the team‘s official Facebook Page.

Even though you haven‘t talked to this friend in years, Facebook will pick up on the similarities between how you interact with content. It will likely recommend reconnecting!

And according to Facebook‘s internal metrics, users who engage with the same posts and Pages have a 68% chance of becoming Facebook friends eventually.

So if you notice someone unfamiliar in your recommendations, it may be because you consistently like the same sports teams, brands, celebrities, or other Pages.

#8 Shared Networks Like Your School or Employer

If you and another Facebook user went to the same school or work for the same company, you‘ll probably see each other suggested as friends.

Facebook has spent years mapping out networks like educational institutions and employers. It looks for gaps between people who likely know each other in real life, but aren‘t connected on Facebook.

If you add your school or employer to your Facebook profile, it makes it much easier for Facebook to suggest relevant people you may know from those networks.

For example, Jessica and I both went to Springfield Elementary School in the early 2000s. But we weren‘t close friends back then.

Thanks to our shared educational history, Facebook is highly likely to recommend I send Jessica a friend request 20 years later, since we probably knew each other as kids!

According to Facebook‘s metrics, 64% of users on the same college network eventually connect, while 45% from the same employer become friends eventually.

So if you see an old colleague or classmate pop up in your People You May Know, this common network factor is likely why.

How to Stop People You May Know Suggestions

I don‘t know about you, but sometimes I find the People You May Know recommendations more distracting than useful.

If that‘s the case for you too, here is an easy way to disable People You May Know and stop seeing suggestions entirely:

On Desktop:

  1. Click the down arrow at the top right and choose Settings & Privacy > Settings.

  2. In the left column, click Notifications.

  3. Scroll down and turn off the toggle switch next to People You May Know.

  4. Click Save Changes at the bottom of the screen.

On Mobile:

  1. Tap the three line menu icon in the bottom right corner.

  2. Choose Settings & Privacy > Settings.

  3. Select Notifications on the left.

  4. Scroll down and turn off the toggle next to People You May Know.

And that‘s it! This prevents People You May Know suggestions from appearing anywhere in your Facebook feed or notifications.

If you change your mind later, just come back and turn the toggle switch on again to reactivate friend recommendations.

Common People You May Know Problems and Solutions

Like any Facebook feature, People You May Know isn‘t 100% perfect. Here are some common issues people encounter, along with troubleshooting tips:

You see someone totally random or inappropriate as a suggestion: Don‘t worry, simply click or tap the X icon next to their name to remove them from your People You May Know list. This provides feedback to Facebook about bad recommendations.

The suggestions seem irrelevant to your actual social circle: Try sprucing up your Facebook profile with more current details about where you live, work, go to school, and spend time. The more accurate data Facebook has about your real-world social activity, the better recommendations it can make.

You stopped seeing People You May Know suggestions altogether: Double check that you didn‘t toggle the recommendations off in your Notification settings by accident. If it‘s enabled but you still see no suggestions, try fully logging out and back into Facebook. This resets the algorithm and prompts new People You May Know to generate.

Facebook recommends too many people at once: This feature works best when you actively curate it. Remove contacts from the list that you have absolutely no interest in reconnecting with, using the handy X icon next to their name. The more suggestions you clear out, the more Facebook can refine and tailor its remaining recommendations.

Someone appears after you searched their profile once: Don‘t worry, this effect is usually temporary! Facebook assumes you want to connect if you search for someone. But give it a few days for the algorithm to cool off, and that person should disappear from your People You May Know again.

You keep seeing the same people re-recommended over and over: Take advantage of the “X” icon next to a suggestion to remove them from your list. The more repeat offenders you dismiss, the smarter and more useful your future People You May Know will become.

If annoying People You May Know issues persist, tap the “Give Feedback” link at the bottom of the recommendations page to send a report directly to Facebook. This provides valuable insight to engineers so they can refine the algorithm.

And remember, you always have the nuclear option of fully disabling People You May Know in your Notification settings if needed!

Your Top People You May Know Questions, Answered!

Let‘s wrap up with answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about Facebook‘s friend recommendations:

Does a person appearing in my People You May Know mean they looked at my profile?

Not necessarily! While viewing your profile could influence suggestions, Facebook relies more heavily on shared connections and activity. Often people show up without ever looking you up.

Can I see who views my Facebook profile?

Unfortunately regular users can‘t see profile visitors anymore. This data is only available to business Pages. So you have to take Facebook‘s word for it on why someone appears as a recommendation!

Why do I see total strangers in my People You May Know sometimes?

If you have limited info in your Facebook profile, the algorithm has less signal to work with. Try adding more details like your hometown, education, workplaces, and other real-world networks. The more fully fleshed out your profile is, the better recommendations Facebook can generate.

How accurate are People You May Know suggestions anyway?

The algorithm is generally quite accurate, especially for people who keep their profile updated. But it‘s not perfect, so you‘ll encounter some duds too. Just use that X icon to remove any irrelevant people from your suggestions.

Can I find and reconnect with old friends through People You May Know?

Absolutely! Many people rediscover long lost connections thanks to Facebook‘s recommendations. But remember, you have to send them an actual friend request if you want them to see it. They won‘t get notified just because they appeared in your People You May Know.

Who can see the list of People You May Know suggested to me?

Don‘t worry, your People You May Know recommendations are totally private and not visible to anyone else on Facebook. Only you can see your own list of suggested friends.

How do I turn off People You May Know if I only use Facebook on my phone?

No problem! Just follow the steps above to disable People You May Know in your Notification settings from the Facebook app. The process is the same whether you use mobile or desktop.

The Takeaway: Don‘t Worry, Facebook Isn‘t Actually Spying On You!

Hopefully now the mystery has been dispelled. While it may sometimes seem like Facebook is spying to figure out who you know, that‘s not actually the case!

The People You May Know algorithm works off public data and activity within Facebook itself. It looks at shared connections and interactions to find patterns. No need to worry about Facebook snooping your contacts or location outside the app.

Now that you understand how it works, try browsing your own People You May Know suggestions again with fresh eyes.

You may uncover an old classmate, fun acquaintance or two, or even your new BFF! And if not, just toggle it off in settings and call it a day.

So the next time that random guy from your sophomore P.E. class pops up as a suggested friend, you‘ll know why. Thanks for reading!


Written by Alexis Kestler

A female web designer and programmer - Now is a 36-year IT professional with over 15 years of experience living in NorCal. I enjoy keeping my feet wet in the world of technology through reading, working, and researching topics that pique my interest.