Pustulous Twitter politicking got you down? Look no further for a sweet escape from the 2018 news-hellscape, my friends, than Facebook’s Trending News tab.
What?! IN the news tab, you say? Isn’t that where click-hungry press organizations and ill-informed uncles thrive, symbiotically sucking each other’s teats of inflammatory information and outrage? No longer, weary travelers. No longer.
A scroll through the Facebook menu, called up by pressing the three lines button in the app, or under “Explore” in the desktop side bar, provides a gateway to a surprising island of quietude.
The “Trending News” tab still appears in the menu, despite Facebook’s recent decision to axe the feature. Even more curious, clicking on the “Trending News” tab serves your tired eyes nothing but … a blank screen. Grayish-whiteness bordered in Facebook blue. It displays the unthinkable: a beautifully, blissfully empty news feed, where all the “Trending News” used to be.
Facebook finally killed its Trending News section in June. With allegations of conservative bias, scandals about how it curates news, and blowback over the way Facebook’s emphasis on news has altered our political landscape, the company turned off Trending News for good one Friday afternoon.
Now the tab and blank screen appear to be a vestige of the feature that still remains in both the app and on desktop. On desktop, an error message appears. Mistaken blip or not, all we have to say is thank you.
Usually, when you click the any Trending News or other social media tab, you gird yourself for the worst; for the latest news of judges ascending to lifelong appointments or trillion-dollar corporations becoming even wealthier. Opening news-centric social media, lately, has become an exercise in self-flagellation. So we greet our feeds, as they load, with a grimace.
Thus, it is a surprise — a delightful, welcome, relieving shock — when your app tells you the latest Trending News is … absolutely nothing. You exhale with relief at this digital white flag. Seeing the empty Trending News tab is like placing a eucalyptus-scented washcloth over your face. You know that there’s plenty going on out there, and that your ability to take even this momentary break is a sign of your privilege. But in Facebook’s accidental secret garden, the surprise of the screen makes you feel, if only for a moment, that there’s nothing to worry about. Swim in the light gray haze. Let it refresh you.
And like everything beautiful, this too is short-lived. We expected Facebook would remove the tab soon, and, in fact, just before posting, we heard back from the company. A rep confirmed it’s a vestige from the old feature and shouldn’t be there. She has notified the team to take it down.
For its brief, continued existence, enjoy this digital cul-de-sac. Bike around in it, without even a helmet. There’s no traffic there. Just silence.