Here’s my Facebook movie!…ENOUGH!

For it’s 10th anniversary, Facebook created a special personalized movie, called Look Back, for its billion+ users, that was made up of each user’s memories on Facebook. It’s a good one minute long video, capturing special moments — most liked posts, photos shared — set to a background score. Sheryl Sandberg recently noted that over 200 million people had watched their individual movies, and 50% of the people who watched their own video had also shared it.

Personally, I wasn’t too happy about my Look Back movie. I felt Facebook’s algorithm had not done a good job of representing my special moments. And while Sandberg is ecstatic about how much people loved sharing their videos, judging from my news feed, more than a fair number of my friends were none too happy about just seeing other people’s videos in their feeds.

1011064_10152077612953283_374152450_nThe cartoon here, which inspired the title for this post, captures this best!

So I wondered if I could find out how many of my friends did not like their movie. I ran a short poll to find out. While I got only 18 responses, here is what I learnt:

No, Facebook missed the mark: 9 out of 18 (50%)

Yes, Facebook captured my special moments: 4 out of 18 (22%)

Can’t say: 5 out of 18 (28%)

Why did people not like their movie?

The answer to this question perhaps lies in behavioral psychology. Daniel Kahneman, leading  psychologist and Nobel laureate, in his book Thinking Fast and Slow explains that the human mind is comprised of two selves: the experiencing self and the remembering self. I will only briefly explain my understanding of this here, but if you are interested in more, here is the NY Times book review and here is Kahneman’s TED talk on the same topic.

The experiencing self is the one that lives in the present moment, while the remembering self is the one that keeps and tells the story of our experience. It is the one that holds the narrative of our life. The remembering self is the one that makes decisions. And while our experience may have many positive and negative moments, highs and lows, the memory of the experience that our remembering self helps us keep is based on, what Kahneman calls, the peak-end rule, i.e., the peak positive or negative moments of the experience and the experience at the end. Interestingly, the duration of the experience does not play a role. Kahneman states that people prefer a longer experience with many negative moments as long as the experience at the end was positive and contributed to an overall positive memory.

According to Kahneman’s research, say we had a wonderful two week vacation and took many pictures, but the camera fell into the water on the last day, or the airline lost our bags on the return journey, that experience at the end tends to create a negative memory of the vacation regardless of the fun we had in the previous two weeks. Similarly, a three week vacation is not necessarily more memorable or enjoyable than a two week vacation if we are not going through any new experiences.

So what does this have to do with the Facebook movie?

The Facebook movie, while a nice attempt to give us a snapshot of our journey on the social network, seems to mess with our remembering self. The movie sets up a conflict between what Facebook’s algorithm wants us to remember, and our own memories of the last five or however many years. While this was a hit and a miss, could Facebook have ensured a universally positive reaction to the movie? Let’s see.

Begin with the End in Mind

The Facebook movie has the following script:

– You joined Facebook in <year>
– Your first moments <a montage of photos from your first few months>
– Your most liked posts <a montage of your posts with the most likes>
– Photos you shared <a montage of photos you have shared>

IMHO Facebook could have chosen a better “end experience” for the movie. While watching the ending of my movie, I felt that the Facebook’s choice of the photos that I had shared did not necessarily represent me or matched my best memories. They were not the ones that many of my friends had liked, or had elicited many comments. Not worrying about the algorithm, if Facebook had just flipped the last two items in the script, and ended with “Your most liked posts”, it would have created a positive end, an ending on a high note.

Given the increasing focus on customer experience, Kahneman’s model of the experiencing self and the remembering self becomes important to understand. Product development is not an activity in isolation, and even though product teams may engage in market research, understand customers, and build products in an agile or waterfall manner, the takeaway here is that product development is essentially customer experience development. As I mention in one of my earlier posts, the product manager is the CEO of the product, Chief Experience Orchestrator.

What do you think?

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