While scrolling through your Facebook News Feed this holiday season, you probably encountered the typical statuses from friends: photographs of families opening gifts and inevitably, a few “Year in Review” posts, a photo slide of highlights from your Facebook Timeline over the past year.
Unfortunately, Facebook’s algorithm for choosing the images wasn’t very thoughtful, dishing out good memories along with the bad.
Facebook: “Remember those memories that now make you sad? Look at your Year In Review!”.
— William Wilkinson (@willw) December 26, 2014
The Year in Review gathers your most-engaged-with posts from 2014, and compiles them into a chronological photo album complete with cheesy clip art. Initially, The Washington Post reported that the feature’s default tagline was, “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.”
Because the algorithm chooses the default photos and moments that had the most interaction, it also includes sad memories. However, users are given the option to customize their Year in Review prior to sharing.
Facebook “year in review” thing is kind of awful as it chose 2 pictures of my dogs that died this year & uses poor graphic design elements.
— Travis Louie (@travislouie) December 27, 2014
Web design consultant and writer Eric Meyer’s Year in Review highlighted the death of his young daughter; he wrote about the negative experience in a post on his website titled “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty.”
And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.
But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.
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