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Last week, Facebook sent an alert prompting users to make videos for friends and family to “say thanks.” The reaction to this new feature has been predominantly negative. Unlike many, though, I am not wholly repulsed by the idea, at least on a macro level.

Perhaps, the execution could have been more interesting and/or contemporary. But one could chalk up the basicness of these user-created videos to Facebook’s challenge of appealing to an unfathomably broad audience: everyone. In fact, in the grand scheme of things, these videos are probably the last thing Facebook has implemented that I take serious issue with.

“’Say Thanks’ is just an amalgam of everything that’s impersonal about digital gratitude. It’s full of clichés like thanks ‘for the good times we’ve had’ and for ‘being a friend’.”

Like most new features released by Facebook, this one has received backlash. Slate contributor, Lily Hay Newman, harshly pans the feature in her article, Facebook’s Customizable “Say Thanks” Videos Are a Terrible Way to Thank Someone.

facebook say thanks

Others have criticized the feature for the technical flaws in its format. You can make a video for anyone on your friend list, but we certainly don’t have images of ourselves with each and every person. There are people on my friends list who I have had zero interactions with on the site. There are also people who I interact with a lot on the site, but have not seen in many years. In any case, the auto-selected images and posts chosen by Facebook’s algorithm for the feature can come across as very random. Frankly, some of the auto-selected posts are downright bizarre. Take a look at the video our Marketing Manager, Adam, created for his friend.

 

Why would Facebook give us this feature in the first place? The simple answer is that it is one more option that we can use to interact with each other. There are plenty of theories about why we like to share things with our friends on Facebook. Generally speaking, some research suggests that our social media posting habits are motivated by a need to cultivate our identities and how we are perceived by others. Seeing that someone has liked a post you made to his or her timeline is affirmation that you did something right, and strengthens a perceived positive connection with that person, regardless of the content that was posted.

Ultimately, sharing on Facebook is much like gift giving. I love the idea of giving gifts not because I am an exceptionally thoughtful person, but because gift giving is a much more complicated interaction than we give it credit for. So many factors affect how we share things with others in the physical (i.e. non-Facebook) world. Giving can often feel like a chore, especially if the reason for giving the gift is important, like a birthday or holiday gift. There can be a lot of pressure on the giver of the gift to make a good choice, and the receiver might feel obligated to show gratitude.

Because I don’t personally associate the ‘Say Thanks’ videos with gratitude, I wouldn’t use one as a means thank someone.  But when I ignore the fact that Facebook named this feature ‘Say Thanks,’ one very important aspect of the videos emerges that must be addressed: humor.

Let’s face it, some people love to share cheesy and ironic stuff on social media. I crave hilarious news stories and videos of kittens chasing their tails in my newsfeed because I like to laugh. I also like to make other people laugh! In the physical sense of giving, if you give someone a goofy gift you have at least one metric to measure the success of that gift – a laugh. I happen to find it really funny when Facebook’s algorithm chooses a peculiar image of Michael Jordan or a post about having the flu and pairs it with the cloying fixed-format of the ‘Say Thanks’ themes.

While I agree with the critiques that call the ‘Say Thanks’ videos a feeble attempt at touching intimacy, I can’t help but wonder whether or not that was the intent of the feature at all. Maybe Facebook’s team recognized the Lynchian absurdity that occurs when you combine stock-photo quality imagery, a melodramatic soundtrack, and cliché commentary with the guffaw-inducing choices made by the algorithm. Maybe everyone in the room started laughing, and on went the lightbulb.

Maybe the best way to say thanks is to give someone the gift of laughter.

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