Surprise! Facebook Actually Has No Earthly Idea Who Your Friends Are
If you logged onto Facebook on Feb. 4, 2016, the 12th anniversary of the social media platform, which Facebook is calling "Friends Day," you probably saw a personalized video pop up in your notifications.
"Awwww, thanks, Facebook! What a lovely gesture," you might've thought, before immediately wondering, "Wait, what the hell is Friends Day?"
If you actually clicked on the video, you might have expected to see images of your closest friends paraded on the screen, one by one, immersing you into a gentle warm bath of nostalgia. "I am so grateful to Facebook for giving me the gift of friendship," you might have said, wiping a single tear off your cheek as you thanked the good Lord above for the divine transformative powers of social media.
But if you were expecting this to happen, you would've been disappointed. Facebook's Friends video is not a celebration of your closest social media friendships. If nothing else, it's proof positive that not only does Facebook have no earthly idea who your friends are, it also doesn't know who the hell you are, either.
My Facebook Friends video, for instance, is a veritable potpourri of people I have virtually no emotional attachment to (or even any social media interaction with, for that matter), with one exception:
Similarly, the collage of "special moments" photos Facebook curated for me is a hodgepodge of drunk group photos I took in my early twenties, which leads me to draw two possible conclusions: 1. Facebook's algorithm for calculating who your closest friends are is crap, and 2. I might've had a serious substance abuse problem in my early twenties.
In fact, when I actually think of the stories behind these photos, it feels like Facebook's Friends Day video is less a testament to the power of Facebook as a conduit for human connection, and more a testament to my most mediocre moments.
Take, for instance, the backstories behind these photos celebrating Very Special Moments (TM):
At one point in my Facebook video, it became clear that not only did Facebook have no idea who my true friends were, it had no idea who I was, either. The photo it pulled up was of a random style blogger on Instagram that my mom had thought looked like me. But had Facebook known anything about me, it would've known that I am not nearly as stylish and/or attractive.
At first, I thought that this was unique to me. But Mic lifestyle director Ellie Krupnick had a similar experience with her own Facebook friends video, which makes it clear that Facebook believes most of her friends are people who are directly related to her (sorry, Ellie).
This is not the first time Facebook has tried to tug at its users' heartstrings, with embarrassing and borderline dismal results.
To commemorate its 10th anniversary, Facebook debuted its "look back" video feature, which offered customized retrospective videos for its users. Unfortunately, a lot can change in 10 years, and many users' videos heavily featured photos of deceased relatives or hated exes, prompting a slew of complaints. (Facebook later quietly rolled out an option for users to edit their lookback videos for this reason.)
Ultimately, it shouldn't come as much of a surprise that any attempts to make users feel like they have a close, personal relationship with Facebook have flopped; it's hard for people to summon up warm and fuzzy feelings about a social media conglomerate. These efforts to remind users of the healing powers of social media also only serve to remind us that when it comes right down to it, we really don't know any of these fucking people at all.
Still, considering that nearly 1.23 billion people use Facebook to connect with their friends, you'd think it would do a better job identifying who our friends actually are — or at least keeping our drunkest, most embarrassing moments out of our feeds as much as possible.