Facebook now admits that forcing people to revisit their most Liked and commented upon photos and statuses from the past year might not have been the best idea. This week, the product manager for the social media company's "Year in Review" app apologized to Eric Meyer, whose six-year-old daughter died of brain cancer earlier this year.
On Christmas eve, Meyer, a web design consultant and writer, published a blog post in which he described how Facebook's algorithm forced him to view a preview of his "Year in Review" post, the cover photo of which was an image of his daughter surrounded by clip art
of balloons and people dancing.
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.
To show me Rebecca's face and say "Here's what your year looked like!" is jarring. It feels wrong, and coming from an actual person, it would be wrong. Coming from code, it's just unfortunate. These are hard, hard problems. It isn't easy to programmatically figure out if a picture has a ton of Likes because it's hilarious, astounding, or heartbreaking.
Others have also complained about the feature.
So my (beloved!) ex-boyfriend's apartment caught fire this year, which was very sad, but Facebook made it worth it. pic.twitter.com/AvU8ifazXa
— Julieanne Smolinski (@BoobsRadley) December 29, 2014
Won't be sharing my Facebook Year in Review, which "highlights" a post on a friend's death in May despite words like "killed" and "sad day"
— Andrew Katz (@katz) December 29, 2014
"[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy," Gheller told the Post, adding that the company will work to improve the app and will consider Meyer's suggestions. "It's valuable feedback. We can do better—I'm very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post."
[Image via AP]