Warning: High Risk Low Reward from Facebook’s 2014 Year in Review App

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Known for its scrapbook-like layout and features, Facebook unleashed the spirit of Thanksgiving across every newsfeed last fall by releasing a fun new feature made available to Facebook users called “Say Thanks” that gave users the opportunity to select friends to create a personalized scrapbook slideshow of customizable tagged photos and captions. Encouraged by the popularity “Say Thanks” received, Facebook used that momentum to launch a similar app called “Year in Review” while the end of 2014 was just around the corner. “Year in Review” meant to weave together a number of your most popular timeline photos from the past year and share them with your Facebook friends.

Looking back, on top of having my newsfeed riddled with both “Say Thanks” and “Year in Review” slideshows, users were prompted (some may say, heckled) to create slideshows of their own. So, I decided to humor Facebook and give the “Year in Review” app a chance. I ended up loving it. When I first opened the app, it displayed a default slideshow that calculated and featured my most popular timeline photos and events in a calendar by chronological order through which my friends and I could scroll through. I was given the option of customizing the photos in my collage with photos from my timeline or by uploading my own, and chose to keep many of the photos Facebook had pre-chosen for me, simply because I like to laugh at myself and all of the crazy things I did throughout the previous year.

Although the default tagline for the “Year in Review” posts was “It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it,” it turns out that not everyone was getting as much of a giggle out of the new Facebook app as my friends and I had, and soon after “Year in Review” came out, Facebook received a wave of backlash from the outcry of users complaining that the app was making them relive their most terrible memories from 2014. And as my friends and family and I got to look back in amusement at photos that brought on nostalgia and funny (albeit sometimes embarrassing) memories, I could see how some users could be offended by some of the photos featured in the default slideshows of their past year. Before customizing my slideshow, I had to weed out one or two photos of an ex-boyfriend that I didn’t particularly want present on my “Year in Review.”

However, that was nothing compared to the amount of pain Eric Meyer experienced described in the Washington Post article, “Facebook’s ‘Year in Review’ app swings from merely annoying to tragic,” telling the story of the father who opened up the Facebook website only to hit a photo of his dead daughter highlighted at the top of his newsfeed surrounded by confetti and party clip art, encouraging him to make a slideshow of photos containing the pain of losing his 6-year-old to brain cancer that year.

While the end of 2014 cued the end of the Year in Review app, the massively prevalent app had already done its damage, and compelled Facebook to immediately issue an apology to its users in lieu of the controversy. While for me, the worst thing that happened when I opened up the app and looked through the previous year’s photos was a default photo of me when I got stuck in a yawning hippopotamus display’s jaws at Busch Garden (hey, if that 7-year-old who fit himself in it a couple minutes before could do it, why wouldn’t I), it appears as though the same app gave a number of my fellow Facebook users a very unwanted and traumatic blast from the past.

Facebook has since created a revised video version of “Year in Review,” called “Look Back,” and I received permission from a friend to share his public Facebook movie. (Note: You may need to log into your Facebook to view the video and the other Facebook links I have included in this post.)

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