Are you friends with your mum on Facebook? Does she like everything you post? Ask her to stop now.
Your mum could very well be the reason you are not a viral sensation.
Engineer Chris Aldrich reached this conclusion after he noticed that a number of his Facebook posts liked by his mum had received very few other likes or comments. He dug deeper and found the issue with the "Facebook-mum algorithm".
He texted his theory by excluding his mum from the audience of some of his posts (harsh but necessary, in the name of science). He then made the posts visible to his mum after a day or so of them being online for everyone else.
His conclusion was surprising.
Aldrich was right in assuming his mum will like anything he posts because, well, she's his mum and that's what mums do. Whether he posts a sweet holiday photo or one of his essays on quantum mechanics, her fingers are ready to move the mouse over the "like" button.
He explains his experiment in his blog post, The Facebook Algorithm Mom Problem, explaining that the Facebook algorithm decides the audience of each post.
For Aldrich's "work-related" posts, most of them automatically posted from his blog, the barriers are even greater (as he explains, Facebook penalises users who don't post manually but prefer to use syndicators).
He explains: "I write my content on my own personal site. I automatically syndicate it to Facebook. My mom, who seems to be on Facebook 24/7, immediately clicks "like" on the post. The Facebook algorithm immediately thinks that because my mom liked it, it must be a family-related piece of content - even if it's obviously about theoretical math, a subject in which my mom has no interest or knowledge. (My mom has about 180 friends on Facebook; 45 of them overlap with mine and the vast majority of those are close family members.)"
Basically, because Aldrich's mum liked the post before anyone else, Facebook assumes it is a family-related post and, therefore, narrows its audience down to those who might be interested.
"The algorithm narrows the presentation of the content down to very close family. Then my mom's sister sees it and clicks 'like' moments later," he adds.
"As a result, my post gets no further exposure on Facebook other than perhaps five people - the circle of family that overlaps in all three of our social graphs."
Aldrich, who we hope has not made Christmas dinner very awkward with this blog post, goes on to say that he understands his mum's desire to like everything he posts - she's his mum after all and what are mums for if not for showering their offspring with love (and social media "likes")?
So it's Facebook who, he says, should change the rules.
"The problem is: Facebook, despite the fact they know she's my mom, doesn't take this fact into account in their algorithm.
"What does this mean? It means either I quit posting to Facebook, or I game the system to prevent these mom-autolikes."
Preventing his mum from seeing the posts first meant that, by the time she saw them, the content had already spread a lot further online.
Aldrich says he hopes Facebook will fix its algorithm after Mark Zuckerberg hears of the experiment (which he might, if Aldrich hides it from his mum for a bit).