For many, 2017 would be a year best left forgotten. Some in Texas were ravaged by record-breaking flooding and rainfall. In California, the worst wildfire on record has wreaked havoc both in Northern California and now in the suburbs of Los Angeles. We’ve experienced two of the five worst mass shootings in U.S. history—this year alone. And our nation’s leaders are scrambling repeal healthcare efforts, end net neutrality, and upend the tax code. Can someone pass us a Xanax?
But Facebook hopes to shine a light—some sort of light—on the positive moments of 2017, albeit limited to the photos and posts you’ve shared on the social network. That’s right, Facebook’s Year in Review is back again. Now, before you groan and resume wallowing in a pint of eggnog, Facebook says it’s worked on improving the annual slideshow.
“We’ve done a lot of work trying to detect bad memories,” said Facebook VP of Social Good Naomi Gleit. “We look at the contents of the comments: ‘Sorry for your loss,’ that’s a good signal that that is a bad memory.” Gleit acknowledges that sometimes Facebook isn’t perfect at that, though, and it’s “not always easy to tell,” especially with the challenges presented by analyzing non-English languages.
Still, given there were so many negative events this year, many have found that Year in Review has surfaced less-than-pleasant memories. For some, they were posts offering well wishes and support to those affected by Harvey. For others, Facebook has highlighted posts from the #metoo movement.
It’s not surprising that these would end up as highlights in our individual feeds: Among the top nine biggest moments on Facebook this year was the Las Vegas shooting, the earthquake in Mexico, and Hurricane Harvey. On a slightly more positive note, International Women’s Day and the Women’s March on D.C. also topped the popularity charts, a feat I’d consider bittersweet. While it’s terrific that International Women’s Day got so much social media love, it would have been better if the Women’s March on D.C. weren’t necessary in the first place. At least it made a big impact in the social sphere.
In the moments Facebook decided to highlight, Gleit says that her team focused on looking at how people came together on Facebook—how they talked about important moments, came together in times of crisis, and organized themselves online to get together offline.
For individuals on the social network, so far this year’s Year in Review seems different. Either fewer people are checking their Year in Review videos (you can view yours here), or Facebook must have improved what it includes in the slideshow. Compared to 2016 and years prior, there seems to be far less outcry on Twitter about the annual reminder-fest. Another alternative is that many of us just aren’t sharing to Facebook as much as we used to.
Hopefully 2018 won’t be quite so dark.