The Impact of Facebook’s “On This Day” Feature

Facebook has recently been rolling out several features to encourage people to share personal content like they used to during Facebook’s inception. According to a study [1], people no longer post as prolifically as they used to. Gone are the days of people posting about their daily lives, song lyrics, or simply “anything on their mind.” Today, only a few years later, people craft and create content that they anticipate their networks will appreciate and of course “like.” Interestingly, Facebook would like us to revert back to sharing more personal content as evidenced by the addition of new features such as ‘On This Day.’

Though we have changed and continue to change how we use Facebook, it is known that people enjoy the act of “backstalking” or looking through their own Facebook histories for old statuses and photos. This activity brings out a kind of nostalgia for people similar to looking through an old yearbook or photo album. People also enjoy “backstalking” friends with strong ties for the same nostalgic effect. With weaker ties, “backstalking” is used as a way to learn about unknown people. The ‘On This Day’ feature introduced by Facebook strives to provide this nostalgic effect almost every day to it’s users by presenting old memories including photos, statuses, posts, etc. from years ago. By default, the ‘On This Day’ page can only be seen by you until you share with friends. For motivation, Facebook will alert you about what their algorithm interprets is a special memory through a notification.

Since it’s release, people have taken the bait and have begun to share memories through the feature. This in turn has brought people to revert back to posting more personal content as a result of feelings of nostalgia and reminiscing. Often posts from ‘On This Day’ are accompanied by nostalgic statuses with inside jokes or shared language representing a deep, emotional connection. These kind of posts are characteristically different from ‘normal’ posts in this new era as they are more pointed, less likely to be appreciated by everyone, and in simple terms: personal. But have Facebooks efforts really made Facebook use into a more emotional experience?

The simple answer is yes, if you want Facebook to. As it turns out, Facebook has put in a great deal of consideration for what memories users see ensuring nothing unhappy is brought back up. To help with that, customization by users is available through a filtering feature. This feature allows users to dictate which range of dates they do not want to see and what people they do not want to see in the posts. [2]. Like all artificial intelligent features, “On This Day” learns from its users and will cater to their wants. This also means, however, that if people do not want to use the feature they can continually dismiss the posts and Facebook will less frequently show them posts. For users who do want to partake in the feature, the response has been fairly positive.

Because of Facebook’s careful consideration on what memories are presented to users, people have enjoyed partaking in the feature. In some cases, people even found the feature to moving — allowing them to reminisce in past moments they never would take the chance to regularly. [2]. Reminiscing in the past on a daily basis has actually been shown to increase well being in people a great benefit for users. On the flip side, some people believe this feature may increase self-absorbed qualities social media promotes. On either hand, it is clear this feature has had an impact on giving Facebook users a more emotional experience.

Sources:

[1] http://cn.asc.upenn.edu/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/CSCW-2016-Schoenebeck.pdf

[2] http://www.businessinsider.com/facebook-on-this-day-feature-and-research-2016-3