Facebook Forced to Apologize After ‘Year in Review’ Feature Brings Up Bad Memories

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Facebook’s recently unveiled ‘Year in Review’ feature, which sees its users being given a video rundown of their 2014 “highlights” on the social networking site, has attracted some controversy after it unwittingly brought back a few bad memories. 

Despite the Year in Review app only including posts made by the user, some still complained about its implementation due to it bringing back distressing memories from their past 365 days spent on the site. The app, which only includes posts which have generated the most activity on the user’s page, was criticized by web design consultant and writer Erik Meyer, who took to his blog to explain that he had been forced to avoid his Year in Review due to him having lost his daughter to brain cancer in 2014.

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Meyer wrote: “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.”

He continued: “It may not be possible to reliably pre-detect whether a person wants to see their year in review, but it’s not at all hard to ask politely—empathetically—if it’s something they want. That’s an easily-solvable problem. Had the app been designed with worst-case scenarios in mind, it probably would have been.”

Seeing as how the Year in Review app doesn’t auto-play, it’s not exactly incredibly difficult to avoid it. While its employment of only popular posts means that some of its proposed “highlights” are rather incongruous with its joyous theme, I’m not of the opinion that those who opt to view it, only to inevitably by confronted by posts that they made on their own Facebook page that may evoke bad memories, have a right to complain. Nevertheless, Facebook has apologized to Meyer, with the Year in Review’s product manager Jonathan Gheller saying to the Washington Post: “[The app] was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought him grief rather than joy. It’s valuable feedback. We can do better – I’m very grateful he took the time in his grief to write the blog post.”