The web is awash with collections of images that attempt to sum up the past year.? And what news sites are doing for global events, Facebook is doing for your life. Log on, and you may discover that they’ve already created a collage of images to summarize the “wonderful” 2014 you’ve had.
It’s an interesting idea, but in this case, the choices aren’t being made by you – or any other person, for that matter. The highlights are selected algorithmically, based on “Likes” and other forms of online traction known only to Facebook. Is that really the best way to summarize your entire year?
Worse still, if you suffered a tragedy in 2014 and you shared it on Facebook, and those images were among the most noticed and shared, you now have the “privilege” of seeing those heartbreaking reminders packaged in a celebratory montage. For instance, take the case of one man whose year-end look back featured images of his deceased 6-year-old daughter. The grieving father complained, and Facebook has apologized, but that’s not the point. The real issue is: How wise is it to measure your year, whether for better or worse, based on a software-generated mashup of your online posts?
Since there are countless ways to measure most any event, let alone an entire year, an algorithmic approach may not be all bad – as long as it’s not your only way of taking stock of your life. Rather than chide Facebook for their mechanistic experiment, which confuses internet traction with genuine happiness, let’s view their one-size-fits-all campaign as an invitation to do for ourselves what they’re attempting to do for us.
How wise is it to measure your year, whether for better or worse, based on a software-generated mashup of your online posts?
How about sitting down with a calendar and looking back over the year you just lived? Perhaps open your phone, or whatever device you use to store images. Which highlights and low-lights would you single out, as the defining moments of your 2014? It’s your life, after all – take charge of summarizing it. It doesn’t have to be as “wonderful” as a social media algorithm casts it. It just has to be real.
Who can say if a selection of images and memories that you curate would end up garnering as many “likes” as a Facebook-generated collage, but who cares?? Depending upon the artifacts you select as representative of the last 12 months, you’re likely to discover a deeper gratitude about the joyful stuff that happened, and greater clarity about what you need in 2015 to help you heal the painful stuff and move forward.
Brad Hirschfield is the co-founder and co-executive editor of The Wisdom Daily. A rabbi, Brad has been featured on ABC’s Nightline UpClose, PBS’s Frontline, Fox News and National Public Radio. He wrote a long-standing column, “For God’s Sake,” for the Washington Post, and has also written for The Huffington Post and Beliefnet.com. He authored the book, You Don?t Have To Be Wrong For Me To Be Right: Finding Faith Without Fanaticism. Brad also serves as President of Clal, The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership, a leadership training institute, think tank and resource center in New York City.