Facebook 10 Year Challenge IS In Fact Just a Meme…
If you have logged in Facebook in January 2019, you are sure to see the latest viral meme trend – The 10 year challenge, “How Hard Did Aging Hit You Challenge” or the photo aging challenge. This simple to do experience tells you to take your earliest known Facebook photo and compare it to a recent one, most suggest it should be 10 years. 2008-2018 or 2009-2019 seems to be a popular choice with the start of the new year. Here is mine.
The results show sometimes funny and sometimes amazing results of just how much our friends and family have changed over 10 years of social media use. Here are a few of the funny ones I found while researching this for your amusement.
Sometimes Tech-Knowledgeable Friends, Don’t In Fact Know What They Are Talking About
But is there a possible malicious use for this viral trend? For almost as many of these fun posts, I’ve seen just as many sinister “Facebook marketing and tech teams are attempting to improve their face recognition software with your 10 year challenge photos BEWARE”, “Facebook is harvesting your data”, or “Facebook is doing age recognition testing don’t give it to them”.
Now Internets, I certainly am not the biggest fan of dear old Faceybook. Heck I even talked about the garbage stuff Cambridge Analytics was doing 2 full years before it became a “mainstream media story” here on my blog. Few things annoy me more than people fear mongering around technology with zero facts of any kind. A lot of the above quotes taken from my personal Facebook friends are big names in technology who are very misled on this topic. This concerns me a great deal and I feel it’s time to set the record straight. Don’t worry guys, I got you. Let’s dive into the FACTS and history of the 10 year challenge or the How hard did aging hit you challenge.
First Posts of 10 Year Challenge
One of the earliest known public posts I could find of this meme came from Oklahoma City Meteorologist Damon Lane in a Facebook Post on January 11th. This straight forward post tells you to take your 1st pic and your current pic and “brace yourself”. It is lighthearted and many users contributed in the comments with their own photo changes over the years. Many news organization have joined the trend since then helping to grow the memes viral state.
That same day Twitter user @gabbymartin4000 Tweeted out this tweet which is the earliest record I can find of it on Twitter. Since then the challenge has gone viral on Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram as well. It is currently right this moment trending on Twitter. If this was a Facebook plot, why has it spread to other platforms?
Saw this “how did age hit you post” on Facebook where you compare your first profile picture with your current one… I now feel like I’m 100 and should probably start using an eye cream. #aging #old #makeitstop
— Gabriele Martin (@gabbymartin4000) January 12, 2019
I have reached out to both these parties for comment about where they heard about the idea and will update here if information changes. If you have an earlier dated timestamp on any platform, I will take that too and update here also.
Facebook is Not Responsible For This Challenge But It IS fun
So as you can so far see Internets, Facebook marketing and tech executives did not sit down in a room with tented steepling hands to figure out how to train their machine learning, tweak their algorithm, increase surveillance or any other malicious intents. If you pause and also think for a moment, official Facebook things, come with a notification, highlights and Facebook official information. They do not look like a many differently worded, fun challenge you see your friends randomly start doing. These characteristics are that of a fun viral meme, not a Facebook driven plot.
Briefly on that note, this challenge viral meme IS fun. Facebook became pretty popular in 2008. Most users started their account by then. Scrolling back to your early Facebook photos shows you just how much social media has changed. Some of those early photos we posted of ourselves were dare I say, ‘more real’. Social media was new, no one was worried about hacking or concerned if an employer was going to see them out drinking with friends. We shared more raw rare versions of ourselves in the early days of Facebook. But a lot more than a few wrinkles have changed. The internet has shifted to a much scarier place and with it comes fear of the unknown.
THAT DOESN’T MEAN FACEBOOK ISN’T STEALING MY FACE
Actually it does folks. The fact this wasn’t started as an official Facebook idea will not be acceptable enough proof for some. Many are now stating that Facebook is OBVIOUSLY stealing that innocent meme face post you did and using it for evil and malicious purposes to improve their AI stuff. I’ve even seen some people stating other 3rd parties like the FBI, Hackers from Russia or Cambridge Analytica 2 are doing this. *sigh* Facts shall set us free! December 19,2017, Facebook release an official statement on its blog about it’s face recognition features. Facebook does indeed do AI research and you can watch this nice little 2 minute video if you’d like an intro course with Yann LeCun, the Chief AI Scientist responsible for the tech at Facebook.
Basically though, Facebook creates a template of your face when you opt in to face recognition and each post you are tagged in, improves the tech to ‘recognizing’ your unique face. The code is open source by the way. So you super duper tech gurus can have a peek inside to see no reference to 10 year aging challenge yourself. Not one reference to “predictive aging recognition” in any of Facebook’s code. For everyone else, there is an insane amount of knowledge available here on this Facebook research page to educate yourself if you felt the desire to learn more about this very interesting topic.
So Is Facebook Perfecting and Tweaking Its Facial Algorithms With The 10 Year Challenge?
I can already hear the naysayers, BE CONCERNED! Facebook is scanning these 10 year apart photos to improve their algorithm aren’t they?! Well, yes, sort of, but only because you opted into that technology more than likely already. The “How Hard Did Aging Hit You Challenge” is to post two existing photos of you from Facebook 10 years apart, so technically you are not giving any new information to Facebook by participating in this challenge. In fact, beyond possibly improving your ‘face template’ there is nothing about participating in this challenge that will give anything to Facebook in anyway. So go let your aging moment shine Friends. By the way, Google and several other platforms have their own version of face recognition that works with their photo products. Face recognition is nothing new folks. If you would like you can read Facebook Official Policy on Face Recognition, then if you are still concerned about what Facebook is doing with your face, here is a nice step by step guide to turn it off.
Step by Step Guide to Turning Off Facebook Face Recognition
- Click in the top right of Facebook and select Settings.
- In the left column, click Face Recognition.
- Go to Do you want Facebook to be able to recognize you in photos and videos? and click Edit.
- Select Yes or No to confirm your choice.
Final Thoughts On the How Hard Did Aging Hit You Challenge
Suffice to say at this point, anyone who is telling you that Facebook is harvesting your 10 year fun face meme for their AI machine, is using a “feeling response” and not a factual one. Feel free to provide them this blog link to help them be more educated. It’s a good thing that people are becoming more concerned about what companies might be doing with their data, but falsely stating that participating in a fun challenge will cause Facebook to “harvest, steal, improve” their data is pure fake information.