In the spirit of Thanksgiving, that one holiday where everyone heads home to try to bang the people they never got to bang in high school, Facebook has introduced “Thanks” videos. These short, personalized videos are culled from our years and years’ worth of Facebook photos. They are intended to make you Feel Things.
But do they succeed?
Personally, I just watched a surprisingly moving video featuring myself and a friend of a friend I haven’t seen in years. I wondered if, in retrospect, we weren’t much closer than I even understood—until I remembered that what we had in common was a drinking buddy with a nice camera.
For each user, Facebook suggests an ordered list of friends it believes you need to reconnect with and thank. This is the first place where the process can go wrong: an anecdotal sample implies that while Mark Zuckerberg’s mothership can compute best friendships with relative success, a surprising number of Facebookers will find that the people suggested by the algorithm (“a girl I had a crush on in college,” “someone I had a falling out with and no longer speak to,” “someone from college I don’t know that I ever met”) are virtual strangers.
There are places Facebook no longer reaches.
Once you’ve chosen your thankable friend, three templates are available: “Old Friends,” “Friends,” or “Family.” Pro tip: Watch these videos through before sending, as each template uses it’s own set of Hallmark-worthy platitudes, and they are not right for every situation. Perhaps you don’t want to tell your cousin Mark that it has “been a wild ride” out of respect for his DUIs, or maybe you don’t want to tell your college roommate “and we have the memories to prove it” while images of nights you don’t remember scroll by.
When all of your selections have been made, Facebook will set photos of the two of you to the Mumford and Sons–esque guitar sounds usually reserved for TV commercials that want you to believe you can trust a bank. Thanks to the many wonderful ways that we Facebook has been used over the years, these can involve delightful non-sequiturs (“We shared some great moments,” the video of my estranged best friend from high school intoned, before cutting to a picture of John Travolta and Samuel L. Jackson in Pulp Fiction), pictures of blacked-out college students, and forgotten memes. Luckily, you can go through and choose the photos yourself, selecting a maximum of 15 where you look great and your friend looks like hot garbage.
But there are places Facebook no longer reaches.
I tried to make a sample video for a close friend and colleague, someone with whom I am in contact every day, and I came up completely short. We agreed that it would have been acres more interesting if the video had come from Google, displaying months of frantic Gchats and Gmails, or even Apple, showing all the texts and selfies we’d forgotten all about. I quickly discovered that other close friends were unthankable as well, thanks to a late-20s tendency to never post pictures anywhere but Instagram.
Although, for many of us, Facebook might have a decade of our lives on file, these videos can also highlight how far out of fashion the platform has fallen. Facebook can’t remind you of the things you never asked it to remember. I, for one, ask them to remember less and less every year.
Screengrab via Facebook