As Facebook releases On This Day, do millennials prefer ephemerality or nostalgia?
Facebook has officially launched a new feature that allows its users to view old photos and status updates without scrolling through their profiles. It's called On This Day, and it sifts through old content, collects the best moments, and sends a notification to make sure Facebook users relive their digital pasts.
The feature is an obvious imitation of Timehop, another service that lets people see what they posted online in years past, but it might also be a little smarter. TechCrunch reports that Facebook is working its algorithmic magic (algormy?) to make sure On This Day isn't bombarding users with photos of their exes, the recently deceased, or otherwise ruining someone's day with a painful memory.
It makes sense for Facebook to unleash this feature on the public. Anecdotally, it often seems like most of the non-photo-related content I see on Facebook is generated by Timehop, making it clear that people want to share their pasts. Facebook isn't keen to let another company control any aspect of social media.
On This Day also fits in with Graph Search, which is useful mostly because so many people have lived their lives on Facebook, making a tool that allows them to sift through their digital miscellanies more useful than it otherwise might be.
The feature might serve another purpose: Letting people know when they put embarrassing shit on their Facebook profile. The company is advertising the ability to edit or delete posts shown by On This Day. Facebook isn't just letting people relive their pasts; it's also making it easier to carefully manage them.
On This Day highlights the contrast between social companies. On one hand, people use services like Snapchat to make sure their every word isn't stored on a server in perpetuity; on the other, they use Timehop and, now, On This Day to take advantage of the fact that Facebook stores some of that same data.
Which will win out in the end: nostalgia for the past, or privacy in the present and future? Even Facebook doesn't know. On This Day comes after the release of Slingshot, a Snapchat rip-off the company released last year. Permanence from one app, impermanence from the other. Facebook is the only constant.