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Facebook Apologizes for Insensitive App Reminding Dad of His Little Girl's Death

Posted by on Dec. 31, 2014 at 9:53 AM
  • 10 Replies

Facebook Apologizes for Insensitive App Reminding Dad of His Little Girl's Death

If you logged onto Facebook this month, you probably saw a "Your Year in Review" app that you could choose to share with friends. Clicking through it, you would have seen "highlights" of your year -- probably posts that got the most responses. But Facebook was forced to apologize for its insensitivity to at least one man who was upset at having one "milestone" in his year rehashed -- that of the tragic death of his little girl.

Web consultant Eric Meyer was shocked when the face of his little girl, Rebecca, who died of brain cancer, popped up on Facebook with the tagline, "Eric, here's what your year looked like!"

He wrote on his blog:

Yes, my year looked like that. True enough. My year looked like the now-absent face of my little girl. It was still unkind to remind me so forcefully.

And I know, of course, that this is not a deliberate assault. This inadvertent algorithmic cruelty is the result of code that works in the overwhelming majority of cases, reminding people of the awesomeness of their years, showing them selfies at a party or whale spouts from sailing boats or the marina outside their vacation house.

But for those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year.

True enough. This is what happens when anonymous computer algorithms re-create the memorable moments of your year -- there is no human heart there to sympathetically sift through what a person might want to be reminded of from what he or she might dread being reminded of.

Meyer's blog post went viral, and eventually the app's product manager, Jonathan Gheller, got in touch and apologized.

I myself was shown a picture of the cat I had put to sleep this past summer -- not exactly a dead child, but still something I didn't choose to be reminded of at that moment. Others have similar stories.

This is the danger of handing a computer the reins of what a human brain should be doing -- sorting someone's photos and life through a lens of empathy and common sense.

But it's also a reminder of what someone may or may not choose to share on Facebook. We already know the company is archiving everything little thing we post on there -- who knows what else it is doing with photos and updates. Word to the wise!

Facebook reportedly vows to try and do better next year.

Did your "Year in Review" contain any painful memories?

Do you know anyone who was upset by theirs?

by on Dec. 31, 2014 at 9:53 AM
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Replies (1-10):
sonshining
by Bronze Member on Dec. 31, 2014 at 12:46 PM

Happy to report, no, there were no painful memories in the year for me. And I was quite impressed actually how both mine and my husband's year in review were put together. I did not share mine though, I saw too may others and thought, who has the time to look at everyone's year. But reading this painful article made me stop and think, how sad for those who did lose loved ones or had a tough year. All things fb and other sites need to keep in mind when they do these projects. And also for us, that our internet posts are OUT THERE. If you don't want to share on social media and something is private, don't share.

Sissy-Smurf
by on Jan. 1, 2015 at 3:48 PM

Had this happened December of 2013, my SO's cousin would have had the same thing happen to her because that year, in September, she lost her mother to Brain Cancer. 

I don't know if I would think Facebook would need to apologize. It's a weird situation because Facebook didn't know this particular man's daughter passed and this man didn't know that by posting it on Facebook, it would pop back up months later. Neither of them knew so it was a total accident. It was nice of Facebook to apologize but no, I don't think it's a case of insensitivity.  

You have to be extremely careful what you put out in cyberspace. Yeah, it's "YOUR" Twitter, "YOUR" Facebook page, "YOUR" Myspace page, "YOUR" Instagram but the fact of the matter is, everything you post - you are inviting anyone who sees it to do with what they want. Yes, any decent human being would be sorry to hear that this man is mourning the loss of his daughter but they aren't THAT close to it, ya know?

whitleypittman
by Member on Jan. 1, 2015 at 4:14 PM
If everyone ignoring the fact that there's a customize button on those?
thatgirl70
by Bronze Member on Jan. 1, 2015 at 4:26 PM

I really do feel bad for the dad, and for anyone that has lost someone. But you know that it is not an intentional thing that Facebook did to make those lives miserable. If you think about it, they are going to always have reminders. My friend lost her adult son to leukemia a few years back. She said just walking into the grocery store and seeing his favorite cereal would make her lose it. It wasn't as if the store or the manufacturer set out to upset her. It was nice of the app developer to apologize, but I don't think it was necessary.

bellaamore
by on Jan. 1, 2015 at 7:25 PM
That thing where it showed a sort of movie from the moment you created Facebook brought me some heartache. It showed pictures people tagged me in from my dad's funeral, and the status that said, "I just left a building where I saw my dad, my best friend, in a box".

But not for this year,no. Then again, I'm not on Facebook longer and haven't had the chance to see this app.
athorne
by Anna on Jan. 2, 2015 at 7:57 AM
I believe there is an option where you can pick what you want on the page if you want to change them. Not only that, you don't have to post it on your news feed if you don't want to.
SlightlyPerfect
by on Jan. 2, 2015 at 8:02 AM
I didn't bother with it for this very reason. In 2014 and whatever the hell was the one they had in 2013.

It's probably a nice thing for teens and twenty-somethings, but it's useless for people in situations like I and Eric were in.
Mrs.Elsey8486
by Member on Jan. 2, 2015 at 8:07 AM

No, it could have! But thanfully did not. I like these things, even if mine had included my more painful memories from the year, I would have simply removed them added different ones. & posted my happy version of it.

goldilocksbecky
by on Jan. 2, 2015 at 8:11 AM

I'm sure he didn't share it in his wall.  That's not the point.  The preview review still popped up, unsolicited, with a picture of his daughter as the header and a caption that read something like, "It's been a great year.  Thanks for being a part of it."  Right at Christmas, no less.  His first Christmas without her.  

Mine popped up relentlessly for several days.  No, I didn't share it on my wall.  No, it wasn't an app that I had signed up for.  It just popped up, trying to get me to share the review (which would have involved loading the app).  It was like a giant, personalized pop-up ad that just wouldn't give up.  Yes, he could choose to not actually load the app and share the review on his wall.  But he couldn't choose to stop the unsolicited pop-up ad from hitting him in the face every time he went to Facebook.  I can't imagine being bombarded with images of my deceaced child, with a caption about it being a great year.  I have several friends whose headline pictures included things their dog that had died, their flooded basement and their crumpled up car from a horrible car wreck.  All with the headline, "It's been a great year . . .".  Really?  Those were bad enough.  I can't imagine how this father felt.

Quoting athorne: I believe there is an option where you can pick what you want on the page if you want to change them. Not only that, you don't have to post it on your news feed if you don't want to.


KRISSEYB1977
by on Jan. 2, 2015 at 11:12 AM
Yes my year end reminded me of the loss of my wonderful grandmother. This it not something I would like to have seen popped up. I have actually had a really bad year which is why I would not have needed or wanted a repost popped up. Sick kids husband battles cancer and to see it all created for me like a happy memory was bad. I believe that if you want it created fine click on it as was done in past years. I don't like having it made without my desire. It just brought to light all that I try not to think about on a daily basis.
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