Thursday, January 01, 2015

Facebook reflects on year in review

Facebook thought you'd celebrate the new year. Now it knows better.

It's apologized for upsetting users with its "year in review" feature. Members got a collection of photos in which they were tagged, plus more from their timeline. They were prompted to share the gallery, a popup page with New Year's themes. 

But not everyone had a great year. A product manager apologized to web designer Eric Meyer, whose gallery featured his daughter. She'd died of brain cancer, on her 6th birthday.

Many Facebook users didn't share their own galleries, and they're private by default. If you track yours down you'll see a choice of themes to use, some more somber than the New Year's party page. You decide whether you had a year worth sharing.

Actually, it was a good idea. Journalists need review features (here's one of mine) to get through a slow December. Why can't Facebook users get a boost for their feeds?

What was forgotten is that we use our pages to muse, not just celebrate. Friends rush to leave tributes on their friends' pages on on their passing. I've gone to Facebook friends' pages to cheer them in their illness, and returned sadly to toast a few in death.

Chicago author Larry Santoro, has an active page months after his July death. Perhaps that's fitting for a gothic fantasy writer. Critic Roger Ebert still has active personal and fan pages. Families maintain pages as memorials. Facebook easily could develop features to challenge obituary sites like legacy.com and tributes.com, if it paid more attention to these enduring connections.

Facebook made an adept about-face on its year in review, changing its default sharing message (“It’s been a great year! Thanks for being a part of it.”) and presenting more neutral graphics.

My year wasn't great. Challenging, yes. I tried new things, met new people and learned a lot about myself. Still, I wouldn't have chosen the circumstances.

But it's good to reflect, and Facebook's smart to encourage it. Many days, I look at my news feed and wish my Facebook friends could give their day a bit more thought.

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