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So we're working on a new social media app, and when discussing with the team the analysis and insights for different social media sites, we came to this one you can see on several sites,most noticeably Facebook: If you are on a page, you see some content. Let's say you see post 1, post 2 and post 3. Now you click on a link that takes you out of the view. For example, you check a notification. If you go back with your browser, you won't be able to get to where you were at first and now you will see post 4, post 5, post X.

Obviously, this is a UX antipattern and clearly a breach of UX rules, specially

  • Permit easy reversal of actions.
  • Support internal locus of control.

and arguably, a couple other rules.

There's no doubt for us about this, it's easily measurable.

My question is: is there a proper name for this behavior? I mean, not only the lack of control, but the content refresh (or any other antipattern mechanism) that leads to such lack of control.

Note: the reason for this question is in order to have a glossary and documentation for the project

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    It is indeed a breach of 'making actions reversable' - which is a heuristic which goes back to the early 90s. As to this particular instance: I've never come across a name - shall we make one up ?
    – PhillipW
    Oct 31 '20 at 12:23
  • How about "Inconsistent Content-Refresh" ?
    – PhillipW
    Nov 2 '20 at 9:16
  • Facebook does this more than anyone else IMO - being common as well, it's the prototype for this annoying behaviour. To me, seen elsewhere, it's "acting like Facebook", though that's not specific enough. Even Twitter is less bad, though guilty of blocking "open in new tab" on mobile - a related distortion of expectations
    – Chris H
    Nov 30 '20 at 11:34
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I would call it a dark pattern. Facebook relies on the Variable Reward pattern to create addictiveness on the app. This is why on each refresh the content changes.

I found myself in your described situation many times. Trying to go back to a post and obviously, it disappeared, so when I got back to the homepage I started scrolling fast to try and find the post which clearly was not in the feed anymore and given that the attention span of humans is shrinking ( https://muckrack.com/blog/2020/07/14/how-declining-attention-spans-impact-your-social-media )as I search for that post I quickly get distracted and just start looking at all the other posts.

By doing so I will either look to find that same reward again or lose the train of thoughts and hop on back to the variable reward game. Either way, they win.

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Truncated Content

Reading your question I found a very good analysis of the Back Button Expectations.

Although they describe a wide variety of unexpected behaviors about returning to the previous view, I think the one that comes closest to your description is truncated content.

In the explanation the article talk about it defining it like:

Truncated content that’s expanded when users tap a link or button shouldn’t be a separate URL that users revisit when they tap “Back”.

Source: https://baymard.com/blog/back-button-expectations#4-truncated-content

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    Thank you Danielillo , but this is not what I mean. Maybe I didn't explain myself correctly. What I mean is not about truncated content (if you expand a post on Facebook content doesn't have another URL nor content disappears). I mean the fact that once you get to another URL, if you hit the back button you will never (or rarely) see the same content. Furthermore: a lot of times, that content you saw at first completely disappears
    – Devin
    Oct 31 '20 at 17:04

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