No, I don’t want to see your 10-year-old photo. And I definitely don’t want to see it on a Friday morning when after waking up I am usually pre-occupied with my work, the way journalists sadly are because they need to quickly catch up on everything that happened while they slept and then prepare for a gruelling day of writing news. Yet, that is all I saw on this Friday morning because apparently, suddenly, millions of social media users decided that they needed to share their 10-year-old photo along with their current one with their friends, family members and with the rest of the world, which also includes me.
We journalists have this nagging tendency to be always in the know, even when we are sleeping nah, just kidding, we love sleep just as regular folks do even if we don’t have the luxury of always getting it. But it’s true that the first thing that we do on waking up in morning is trawl through our social media accounts. Things happen there, and it’s a quick way of catching up on everything that has happened. This means a good 15-20 minutes of my morning time is dedicated to surfing through social media for some information a bit of Facebook, a tinge of Twitter and a dash of Instagram. Twitter and Facebook are for news and Instagram strictly to break the monotony of drab news reports.
So on Friday, when I was going through my Facebook and Instagram accounts I saw a flurry of images with #10YearChallenge in the caption. I had been seeing such posts, where people put their current image from 2019 with an image that shows them from 2009, on my social media accounts for past few days but it wasn’t until the Friday morning that I realised what a monster this trend had become. From my friends, to fellow tech journalists, and from celebrities to even European Space Agency astronauts, everyone had been sharing the images that showed the kind of transformation that they had witnessed in a decade.
Just like so many other viral trends this one too is pointless. A bigger problem in my opinion is how can such a trend exist in 2019, a year in which we now know the uselessness of something like Facebook. In middle of all the privacy scandals, and all that talk of how social media is as addictive as heroine, people should be using it less. Instead, they have created the 10 Year Old Challenge that is just an exercise in polishing vanity. This is the reason why most of the people are trying to show off how little they have aged in 10 years. Or how they have got a new car in 10 years. Or how eat in fancy restaurants now instead of a scrappy hole-in-the-wall 10 years ago. The before and after celebrity photos that have gone viral are all about oooh, you look the same. It’s vain. It’s massaging your own ego. It’s dumb.
No, I am not saying people need to give up on social media use. Or they need to stop sharing photos. I have an Instagram account that I frequently use to share images with my friends. But a trend like 10 Year Old Challenge is just obnoxious. Sure, there are some funny ones. Like an image that went viral on Twitter bless the good folks at Twitter who mighty be salty but are at least not as vainglorious as those on Facebook or Instagram showing that how a big iceberg has been reduced to just a broken sheet of ice in 10 years. The tweet was titled, This is the only #10YearOldChallenge that matters. I agree. But rest of these comparison that are floating around are just feeding social media frenzy, and for nothing.
Or maybe they are feeding Facebook’s smart algorithms. Author of Tech Humanist Kate O’Neill pointed out that Facebook could be using this massive repository of clearly labeled images to train its artificial intelligence (AI) systems to profile people based on their age progression.
And probably Facebook is right. But this is 2019, folks. May be Facebook is not benefiting from it. But there could be others. A lot of this data is in public domain and can be used or misused.
Even that, though, is not the entirety of why I find the 10 Year Old Challenge a nonsense. If 10 Year Challenge is a challenge then what are you trying to achieve by posting your decade old photos? Are you a wine of bottle, which gets better with age and now 10 years after you took some photo you want to show the world how you have aged gracefully? And if you are a bottle of wine, then fine, go ahead and post those images taken 10 years apart. If not why waste time? There are better things to do, no?