By my estimation, one of the few good things to happen this year was the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series, but tons of Cleveland fans will disagree with me. So I approached my annual Facebook Year in Review with trepidation.
My video features bright animations and jaunty music with photos from my timeline sandwiched inside. It starts off promisingly enough. Oh look...there's me feeding adorable tame deer at the Grand Canyon Deer Farm! So cute! Next up, I'm giving the Vulcan salute while in Aikido uniform at the dojo. Good times. Oh hey, there's me in my Star Trek uniform with my pink-sparkle Telecaster. Thanks, Facebook!
Facebook is rolling right along now with sweet memories of music gigs and family events. And then...gut punch. There's a photo of a friend who passed away this year. This is why people fear the Facebook Year in Review. We're moving through the holidays, looking for brightness in dark days and trying to stay cheery, and there's Facebook poking at our sore spots with reminders of personal tragedies.
That social media can spark strong negative emotions isn't a new revelation; researchers have, for example, drawn lines between Facebook and depression over the years. A 2016 study from the University of Pittsburgh suggests heavy social media users are 2.7 times more likely to suffer from depression than people who use it infrequently. A 2013 study looked into Facebook use and a decline in a sense of well-being for young adults.
If you put stock in those studies, you may already be concerned about the impact Facebook could have on your mental health. And then along comes the potential minefield of your Year in Review.
Upon first seeing my friend's passing pop up in my Year in Review, I shake my head at Facebook, feeling old pangs return. Then I accept that this, too, was part of my year. I'm not one of those people reaching out and connecting to far-flung friends just to share moments when I'm rocking out or my cats look cute. I'm also here to share the hard times and it's OK that Facebook recognizes that, even if it's just some dumb fluke of an algorithm.
Your Facebook Year in Review is not just a video. It also shows all the people you became friends with, where you checked in on a global map and your number of post reactions. This is interesting. During 2016, I reacted 864 times to people's posts. And every single one of them was a thumbs-up like. I had no tears, no scowls, no wide-mouthed shocked emoji faces.
I don't plan to make my Facebook Year in Review public on my profile. It's missing some major moments, like my brother's wedding and all my great cat photos. And not everybody wants to be reminded right now of who we lost this past year.
Facebook does give you the option to replace posts in your personalized video, but I'm not going to do that. I'm going to use that time to do what I should be doing instead of spending more time on Facebook: writing, petting my cats and looking forward into 2017 with the hope my next Year in Review won't need to share any sorrow.