A new art project lets you see your whole Facebook history, all at once.
If you've had a Facebook account for any meaningful amount of time you probably have a huge swath of photos, comments, and statuses out there. Some of that content might be more than a decade old, depending on when you signed up. A lot it we'd rather forget, but unless you close your account or take the time to delete each embarrassing status from 2009 individually, it's most likely there to stay.
Facebook: Life in Review, a new art project created by Kevin Roark and Bernhard Fasenfest, who go by the name Carmichael Payamps, pokes at the eeriness of all our accumulated Facebook data, by displaying all your contributions to the social network throughout the years, all at once.
"We created Life in Review to reveal, all at once, the sort of staggeringly large historical archive of memories and life-information that most users of Facebook have unintentionally created for themselves," Roark told me over email.
After signing into your account via the artist's' site, you're confronted with your most "popular" posts, based on how many likes and comments they garnered. Within a couple seconds, the screen goes blank, and suddenly all of the pictures, likes, statuses, comments, and events you ever added to Facebook start dripping down the screen. You have the ability to toggle with the view slightly, but for the most part, you're a slave to the algorithm that Roark and Fasenfest created.
Within several minutes, a smiling picture of myself, arms wrapped around two friends I haven't spoken to since high school, whizzed by. I winced, but before I could even acknowledge what had happened, a strange status update I made about returning shoes in 2010 flashed on my screen. Why did I feel the need to tell all my Facebook friends about that?
"I think the reaction will vary from person to person. Some find it funny. Some are nostalgic. Others are overwhelmed. In essence, it evokes all the same emotions that Facebook tends to generate itself, yet stripped of Facebook's comfort and familiarity," Fasenfest told me.
The piece "should evoke emotions of nostalgia, regret, happiness, confusion—but it also hopes to make clear how easy it is to collect and display so much of an individual's life only from what she has willingly made available," Roark said.
The whole thing is mesmerizing to look at, and it's a way better representation of the absurd volume of things I've posted on Facebook throughout the years than Facebook's own "On This Day," a feature which allows users to take a peek back at previous posts made on that same calendar day in the past.
While you're gawking at the screen, a psychedelic soundtrack created by Fasenfest plays (it samples Update Your Status by Toshman Powell). If you're so inclined, the artists also built in the ability to share your Life In Review "score," on your Facebook timeline, allowing you to create even more content on the site. Put your headphones on, lean back, and take a weird look at your past lives lived online.