Facebook has done it again. It has offended numerous readers with a chronological slide show called “Year in Review.” A father, who lost his daughter this past year, went to the press to complain about Facebook’s insensitivity. Others are insulted that Facebook’s mysterious algorithms have peered into their photo galleries and decided which images were important enough to share.
It is a made up crisis. Facebook merely spit out what you have already put in. Those who are outraged – who are on Facebook voluntarily and who share personal pictures on their timeline without a thought or care – have no idea the feature is entirely customizable, and shown only to the reader – the “Only Me” setting until the owner of the account decides to share it to the virtual beyond.
Mine popped up with an picture of me on the cover, an old coot elated at earning her masters degree this past May.
My initial thought was, “Oh what’s this?” and I clicked inside to watch how the events of my year unfolded. It included some odd, out of context images. I also saw what many appear to have missed; an option to share and an option to customize! I played with mine for a while, adding and removing photos, tweaking text and tinkering with the lead-in title and trying on the different background designs for size. I even added a little tribute to a beloved cat I had lost. When I was happy with the results, I shared it – to myself. I hadn’t seen anyone else’s and I did not want to be the first in my Facebook crowd to share what I will admit is a slightly narcissistic review of “me, myself and I.” But then again, isn’t all of our posts on Facebook like that? Eventually I shared it to a limited number of friends who like this kind of schmaltz, and I put myself in that category as well. I admit the voyer in me enjoyed reviewing the “Years” my friends shared.
Facebook’s robotic algorithms chose the photos based on the engagement rates each image or event received. It selected the images that received the most Likes, Comments and Shares. That is how it understands what is important in your life, odd or not. The rest of the decision making was chronological. Google+ did the same thing, making a movie of my life this past year. I don’t nearly post as much on that platform as I do Facebook. My cell phone images are automatically archived. I apparently took a lot of photos of slide show presentations I attended. My Google+ year in review was rather clinical and boring, set to uplifting music. I couldn’t edit it and I definitely didn’t share it.
No one forces us to sign up for Facebook, or post pictures of our children, vacation spots, home renovations and pets. It is our responsibility to use the privacy settings for content and who we let into our virtual life as friends.
Those outraged at Facebook for this end of the year novelty jumped the gun. They need to take a deep breath, do some due diligence with the social media platforms they are on, and take the time to understand the privacy settings and opt-out options available to them. As Auld Lang Syne begins to ring and “year in review” compliations proliferate thoughout the media, we need to look before we leap and think before we scream.
Epilogue: Facebook’s Year in Review has received national attention. In the future, Facebook might want to consider a big “DRAFT” watermark across the suggested post that appears in Newsfeeds. “Year in Reivew” comes off the widely (and wildly) successful Facebook is 10 movie, which chronicled readers’ posts from 2003 to 2013. The movie slideshow, put to pretty piano music, was a hit among readers. As with the Year in Reivew, contents of the movie were entirely customizable, a feature that most people figured out. Naturally, Facebook wanted to repackage that success. Their failure, if you can call it that, was not explaining the customizing feature well enough in advance.