Facebook’s People You May Know Algorithm: All You Need to Know

Facebook – A Connected World Through Its People You May Know Algorithm

Facebook’s entire premise is that of connecting the world. The business itself is built around this principle – to make the world a more connected place, a place where we can connect with the important (or not so important) people in our lives. Our Facebook accounts allow us to stay in touch with distant relatives, old school friends, people we have met through events, current colleagues at work, and so on.


There is a clear interest on Facebook’s part in connecting you with as many users as possible. Adding each new friend is like adding a new piece of information to your Facebook page. With the constant flow of new information, comes your propensity to keep on checking your Facebook news feed for updates day in and day out throughout the day. Thus, users of Facebook are sent constant reminders to add new friends to their list.

Consequently, Facebook will continue to recommend pages and people you can subscribe to, along with some notifications. It accomplishes this through the People You May Know algorithm. Remember, Facebook wants you to connect with people you do know.


How to find “People You May Know” Algorithm

People You May Know is one of the most important algorithms on Facebook.

  • You can view it by scrolling down your Facebook feed on either the app or the website.
  • You can directly access this information by typing “People You May Know” in the search bar.
  • You can also go to the Find Friends page to discover more People You May Know as shown in the screenshot below.


What is the “People You May Know” Algorithm?

So what exactly is the People You May Know algorithm? How does it determine which suggestions to include?

Screenshot of Facebook’s Help Page
For the most part, Facebook provided us with official information via their website about the “People You May Know” algorithm. You can check it out on this page. Facebook’s People You May Know gathers information and suggestions from the following items below:
  • Your mutual friends 
  • Your common Facebook groups
  • Your networks (university, club, job)
  • Your phone’s address book

You are highly likely to know people who know your friends or go to the same clubs or groups that you do.

Facebook provides the following tools to help you manage or use the People You May Know feature. The following are available for you to use:

  • Modify the privacy settings of your friends’ list
  • Allow only certain people to send you friend requests
  • Manage the address book on your phone
  • Manage those who can look up your Facebook profile
  • Disable this feature from your newsfeed

My People You May Know List

Generally speaking, I believe it is true. Based on my Facebook People You May Know suggestions, I see the following:
  • People with whom I share mutual friends ranging from 1 to more than 100.
  • People who have been tagged in the same photo with me, even if it was a large group photo and I have only met them once.
  • My former colleagues from one of my previous positions a couple of years ago.
  • People whom I have had to contact professionally, though they are not my friends.
All the suggestions I’ve gotten make sense to me. Nobody on my People You May Know list is a stranger. In my experience, there was at least one mutual friend between all the other “friends.”  However, there are probably some people, especially those who have to make a lot of business calls on their phones, with other suggestions that they don’t completely get.


And no, I never added any of them. But they are on my list as suggestions.



Final Thoughts: People You May Know Algorithm

Image by 서 은성 from Pixabay
So the Facebook itemized list seems to be accurate. People who Facebook thinks you might know are suggested based on your profile information, like mutual friends, work or school info, networks, etc. Facebook suggests people based on your interests (same group), hobbies (same club), mutual friends, and many other factors. Having mutual friends is probably the most important factor.


Another such factor is through your phone number and address book. In this case, Facebook could pull your phone or email contacts, find them on Facebook, and suggest them through the People You May Know algorithm. I admit that sometimes the list does seem to be people you know but don’t intend to add.


Does the People You May Know algorithm use location history? Some users say it suggests people they don’t know or who only know one another through their physical space – which raises questions about how it works. So, if Facebook was previously using users’ locations to make recommendations, it claims to have ceased doing so (see resource). The Facebook website did not show me any recommendations from my neighbors even though I had location enabled on my Android phone.


Although there have been rumors that Facebook uses data from apps such as Tinder or Instagram, the company denies this vehemently. Facebook maintains that it does not suggest friends based on data from third-party apps.


It’s also said that Facebook is telling you who’s stalking you. It is entirely plausible that Facebook does this. But at the moment, Facebook denies suggesting friends when you search for your name, nor does it provide your name to other people when you look them up. Maybe Facebook suggests those who keep on looking at your profile, but officially they claim that do not.


As a user, you have the option to change your privacy settings for this feature to make it less creepy, even removing it completely from your newsfeed.


In a nutshell, the People You May Know algorithm is basically a collection of your friends’ friends, people in your network and groups, and the people in your phone’s address book. 
Beyond that, it’s all just speculation.