Facebook, Stop Telling Me What Memories To Share


Even on a good day, many of us don't like seeing old photos of ourselves. Maybe our hair held onto that style a few years longer than it should have, we've got our arm looped around an ex, or we posted the last photo we'd ever taken with a now-deceased loved one... or maybe we're just trying to increase our Zen by a power of ten and live in the now. Whatever the reason -- and whatever lack of privacy we've agreed to accept in those five feet of terms and conditions -- I doubt that any of us needs a memory babysitter with no regard for the "soft spot" of our synapse - filled heads.

Images are how a lot of us communicate with each other these days. For better or more likely for worse, we spend hours looking at framed versions of others, deducing how great or awful their lives have been or will be, for eternity. If old photos carry a disquieting current even for the demographically common among us, multiply that by a factor of nails-on-chalkboard for transgender people, who've not only traversed a labyrinth to make the mirror reflect what we feel inside but have suffered, repeatedly, the discomfort of living in a world that often doesn't respect that... all to have a past version of ourselves thrown back in our faces just because we decide to open an app.


Apparently, Facebook has bought into the idea that we need even more images to distract us from artisanal cheese and the collapse of our collective imagination. They're genuinely concerned that if they don't capture our attention, something else will; however, contrary to what they'd like you to believe, prompted reminiscing is not about making our experience with social media any better. It's about trading our attention span for ad dollars. If we weren't so busy looking for our future in the past, I'm guessing we'd be more concerned about the impact of that.

I've searched for a way to turn these memories off completely, and as counterproductive as that seems in human terms, fear not; you can't entirely stop Facebook from dragging a traffic spike through your past. You can choose whether to get notified and weed out certain people or time periods, but that seems like a false sense of sovereignty. Most people want more control than a latter-day Scrooge over having their pasts paraded in front of them.


Images are moments frozen in time, yet they inordinately impact the way others view us. Do an image search for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump and tell me you aren't making judgments based on what you find.

photos by Gage Skidmore

Online images reflect the range of our humanity one page deep (refer back to the attention span problem if you think most people probe deeper than that). If you search images of trans men, for instance, you might conclude that we do just about everything with our shirts off, we're really good at growing facial hair, and we spend an inordinate amount of time either popping our biceps in front of a mirror, working out at a gym to get said biceps, or selecting our next tattoo. Also, you may not realize there are more than ten of us. If you search images of trans women, you'll have a whole other set of narrowly defined parameters to work with. If you search images of yourself, well, you're doing something called ego-surfing and you're not alone... in lying about it.

Ironically, nostalgia is a pop culture trend, but the popularity of Throwback Thursday doesn't mean I want others to select what I pull out of my cache. Whatever I choose to share about what happens On This Day, I don't need a new way to backslide down memory lane. I don't believe any social media platform cares about me or my recollections, and that's okay. I don't want to disable my actual memories; I just want to disable an algorithm telling me which of them I'd like to share.

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