The Real Source of Cruelty In Facebooks “Year in Review”

Eric Meyer’s “Year in Review” on Facebook featured the face of his daughter who had recently died. On his blog earlier this week he wrote about Facebook’s “inadvertent algorithmic cruelty.” Meyer said: “It isn’t easy to programmatically figure out if a picture has a ton of Likes because it’s hilarious, astounding, or heartbreaking.”

Jeffrey Zeldman adds to this critique, focusing on the types of employees who populate and dominate giant tech firms.

If we keep throwing only young, mostly white, mostly upper middle class people at the engine that makes our digital world go, we’ll keep getting camera and reminder and hookup apps—things that make an already privileged life even smoother—and we’ll keep producing features that sound like a good idea to everyone in the room, until they unexpectedly stab someone in the heart.

Interestingly, Meyer has a follow up post where he says this type of criticism is unfounded and wrong:

What surprised and dismayed me were the…let’s call them uncharitable assumptions made about the people who worked on Year in Review. “What do you expect from a bunch of privileged early-20s hipster Silicon Valley brogrammers who’ve never known pain or even want?” seemed to be the general tenor of those responses.

No. Just no. This is not something you can blame on Those Meddling Kids and Their Mangy Stock Options.

First off, by what right do we assume that young programmers have never known hurt, fear, or pain? How many of them grew up abused, at home or school or church or all three? How many of them suffered through death, divorce, heartbreak, betrayal? Do you know what they’ve been through? No, you do not. So maybe dial back your condescension toward their lived experiences.


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