This month, Facebook launched a customisable slideshow feature called, ‘Year In Review.’ I’m sure most of you have seen, if not used this feature already. It has certainly been making more than its fair share of appearances on my timeline.

Facebook automatically creates a slide show with suggested photos for each of their users. the photos are selected based on the number of “likes” they received for a specific month of the year. In order to try increase engagement, Facebook’s algorithms have been encouraging users to create their own year reviews by prompting them with notifications in the app.

So it all sounds great, right? Well the tagline for the Year In Review slideshow is, “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being part of it.” Unfortunately most of us don’t have perfect lives where nothing goes wrong and instead, the Year In Review feature has served as a reminder of tragic circumstances.

This year, web designer Eric Meyer lost his six year old daughter Rebecca to brain cancer so he did not have any desire to create a Year In Review slideshow. However, Facebook’s algorithms automatically created a slideshow for him with his daughters face at the centre of the first slide and holiday-themed clipart around it.

Facebook displayed a notification on top of his newsfeed on 24th December asking if he wanted to customise and share it with his friends. Meyer wrote a blog post about the experience where he also suggested ideas for where Facebook could improve in the future such as not pre-filling a picture until they are sure users want to see it and saying that programmers should plan for worst-case scenarios and failure modes. He wrote that:

“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.”

Facebook Product Manager Jonathan Gheller is in charge of the Year In Review project and he reached out to Meyer directly to apologise to him. Gheller said he will do better in future, and Meyer wrote a follow up post saying he actually owed Gheller an apology for dumping the internet on him at Christmas.

It is not the first time Facebook has tried out a feature like this, last year they created a Year In Review video slideshow based on life events and in 2012 they had a Year In Review app which showed the most liked photos and status updates of that year.

About The Author

Mark is the founder of 60 Second Social media where he provides social media news and digital marketing analysis, he is also a proud father of his bearded dragon, Lola. You can follow him on Twitter here. You can also follow 60 Second Social on Twitter here.

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