Photo by Loco Steve/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

How to use Facebook’s new search tool to discover the past

Let the embarrassment begin.

 

Selena Larson

Tech

Published Dec 17, 2014   Updated May 29, 2021, 11:17 pm CDT

Facebook rolled out an update to its search function on mobile and the Web earlier this month, and it might be the best thing to happen to Facebook since stickers in comments.

You can now search for old posts by keyword, location, people, or anything else that you can think of. Not just your old posts, either. Facebook search will display results from any post you’re allowed to view, which means status updates, photos, and videos from friends, pages, and people with public profiles.

I tested out the new feature and wasted way too much time scrolling through Facebook past. I discovered moments I’d forgotten all about, and saw pictures I don’t remember posing for. When I searched for “Posts by me ‘boat,’” I unearthed a handful of photos from a trip to Pittsburgh I’d completely forgotten about.

The search results vary, and it’s still not perfect. I tried to search for posts about San Francisco, and Facebook showed me posts from San Francisco. And considering I live there, and most of my posts are tagged with my current location, it completely screwed up the results.

Improved Graph Search is also much better when you’re searching for personal posts—as my colleague pointed out, Facebook’s search for news and events still needs significant improvements. And unlike Twitter that lets people select “Top” or “All,” Facebook search results have no way for the user to discern what’s displayed and why.

Like in sticker search, Facebook recognizes natural-language search, too, so when I searched for posts by me containing the word “drunk,” Facebook also showed me status updates containing the words “pissed,” and “wasted.” It also displayed results in which “drunk” appeared in the link preview or in comments from friends.

The most unnerving thing about Facebook’s new search function is that you can search for posts from friends about a particular topic. This revelation makes me think I should cull my friends list down even further—I don’t necessarily want people I recently met to be able to search through my entire Facebook history.

So how does it work?

If you haven’t yet, you’ll notice a notification when you click on the search bar on the Web. If you click “learn more,” you’ll get more information about the expanded Graph Search.

Screenshot via Facebook

Alright, so let’s search. If you want to search for posts you’ve made, simply type “posts by me” and then whatever you’re looking for. Because the results aren’t entirely perfect you might need to be as detailed as possible—a few times I needed to add quotation marks around the keyword to make sure it was searching for the right term, or add “containing [topic].”

Screenshot via Facebook

With the expanded search feature, you no longer have to scroll through endless photo albums to find photos taken with your best friend—simply search for “Photos of me and [your friend]” to access all the pictures you’re both tagged in.

Screenshot via Facebook

Now comes the weird part. You can search for things friends have posted just as easily as you can discover your own history. Personally, it creeps me out that new friends I’ve met professionally can find out posts I made while “drunj.” As long as you’re in the designated audience for someone’s post, you can see anything they write.

Screenshot via Facebook

With Facebook’s recent updates, it’s now much more difficult to keep stuff hidden on the social network. Posts about topics or friends you thought were buried can now be unearthed simply by searching for them.

Graph Search is equal parts awesome and terrifying, and now that it includes posts, it will be fun to look back over your Facebook history and relive those awkward moments you’d forgotten about. 

But it also serves as a great reminder that whatever you post online can be discovered eventually. 

Photo by Loco Steve/Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Share this article
*First Published: Dec 17, 2014, 3:38 pm CST