Facebook 'On This Day' Backfires with Bad Memories

John Lister's picture

Facebook is tweaking a feature which shows old posts on anniversary dates. The change is designed to let users filter out unwanted or uncomfortable memories.

The feature concerned is known as "On This Day" and involves an entry appearing in the user's news feed. The entry won't appear for anyone else, unless the user actively decides to share it. It's also possible to access the page directly using a bookmark on the Facebook site or via a dedicated page at facebook.com/onthisday. Users can also sign up so that several such memories are guaranteed to show up in their news feed each day.

The 'On This Day' entry will be a re-post of something that happened on the same day in a previous year. This could simply be an old status update or photograph post, but may also include some kind of change to the user's Facebook presence, such as when they became Facebook friends or changed their relationship status.

Not All Reminders Are Welcome

The problem is that the feature isn't sophisticated enough to figure out which posts - and the associated memories they evoke - will be of a positive nature. That means it sometimes throws up unwanted reminders such as when a user got engaged or married (to somebody they've now split up from) or even the anniversary of a friend's death.

In response to complaints about this problem, Facebook has now added a preferences menu for users that want to restrict certain memories from appearing on the feature. The menu is accessible at facebook.com/onthisday and a button marked "Preferences" with a gear logo.

The menu offers two options for filtering out posts. One is to block any posts that mention or involve a particular person. The other is any posts that relate to a specified time period, for example the time before and soon after somebody died. (Source: businessinder.com)

Year In Review Feature Backfired

It's not the first time Facebook has had to make changes to an automated feature after inadvertently upsetting users. Last year it put together a "Year In Review" feature which showed photographs which earned the most "likes" from friends.

Unfortunately in several cases these were photographs of recently deceased friends or family members where the "likes" were expressions of sympathy and, to say the least, the user concerned did not consider the event one of the highlights of their year. (Source: time.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Is Facebook right to add in these filters? Should users be bothered by automated reminders of events they'd prefer to forget? Should Facebook put more thought into how to detect if a past post might now be seen in a negative context?

Rate this article: 
Average: 5 (4 votes)


Dennis Faas's picture

The 'Like' button is an easy way to vote on something to show approval. The problem is that there is no 'Dislike' button to show the opposite, or even a way to show support without liking or disliking something. For that, Facebook engineers need to extrapolate data - but as shown in this article, it's easier said than done.

NickyK's picture

Facebook caused me some distress by showing a picture of my recently deceased cat "On This Day" just when I was getting used to him not being around any more. It was the unexpected, sudden nature of the appearance which upset me.

I think we should be able to disable this "feature" (and many other FB features) at will.