Facebook’s inability to be ‘human’ results in messy ‘Year in Review’

The Facebook algorithm.

The unpredictable and constantly changing beast on which your Newsfeed thrives. It’s had its criticism over the years and most recently has been chastised for Facebook users’ Year in Review summary that weaves together your most popular posts from 2014. Popularity, however, is based not on circumstance, but engagement. So a photo that elicits a sad memory, but received several likes, might have taken center stage over a more blissful memory.

This was the case for web consultant Eric Meyer. In a blog post last Wednesday titled “Inadvertent Algorithmic Cruelty,” Meyer wrote about seeing a preview of his Year in Review that featured his six-year-old daughter who died of brain cancer earlier this year.

“I didn’t go looking for grief this afternoon, but it found me anyway, and I have designers and programmers to thank for it … Where the human aspect fell short, at least with Facebook, was in not providing a way to opt out.”

The post quickly garnered attention.

Others voiced similar experiences of encounters with unwarranted sadness or anger upon seeing photos of deceased friends and family — moments we share on Facebook, but aren’t necessarily worth a revisit.

Facebook’s Year in Review product manager Jonathan Gheller told the Washington Post that the app “was awesome for a lot of people, but clearly in this case we brought [Meyer] grief rather than joy.”

He said he personally reached out to apologize to Meyer. In turn, Meyer thanked Gheller and apologized for dropping “the Internet on his head for Christmas.”