Facebook is a virtual diary of most of the things that happen in your life, and the new “On This Day” feature automatically prompts you to look back at past events on any particular date.
But that can mean reliving painful memories too – which some people aren’t thrilled with. Here’s how to stop it.
What’s “On This Day”?
On This Day is actually a pretty cool feature, and 90% of the time, it’s a great way to look back at your social life. It’ll find who you made friends with in years past, and it will show you goofy photos from that epic party two years ago. Facebook pushes these as notifications in your news feed.
But you have to remember that this is a machine generating all those moments. It can’t feel, and it can’t understand emotions, so it’s going to make mistakes.
Bringing Up Things You Want to Forget
Your past is a part of who you are today. And often, there is some baggage that you have learned to deal with and live with, but don’t want to be reminded of it suddenly. Unfortunately, that’s what On This Day does.
Journalist Julia MacFarlane, for instance, got an unpleasant reminder of one of the scarring experiences in her life:
Facebook's "On This Day" memories app chose to remind me of my first Beirut bombing with balloons and cat pictures. pic.twitter.com/hKJ4ukMWOp
— Julia Macfarlane (@juliamacfarlane) October 20, 2015
It can get worse. Much worse. On This Day works on the same technology that Facebook’s end-of-the-year “Year in Review” uses, and just like it sometimes it brings back painful memories in a jovial way.
Renowned Web developer Eric Meyer went through a horrible year after his daughter died. He didn’t want to recap the pain. But Facebook forced it upon him with a popup notification in his timeline that showed his daughter’s face surrounded by illustrations of dancing people and balloons. Meyer wrote in his blog:
Those of us who lived through the death of loved ones, or spent extended time in the hospital, or were hit by divorce or losing a job or any one of a hundred crises, we might not want another look at this past year. To show me Rebecca’s face and say “Here’s what your year looked like!” is jarring. It feels wrong, and coming from an actual person, it would be wrong. Coming from code, it’s just unfortunate. These are hard, hard problems. It isn’t easy to programmatically figure out if a picture has a ton of Likes because it’s hilarious, astounding, or heartbreaking.
As Meyer pointed out, there is an algorithm failing here, but there is also a human failing. The human failing was that Facebook pushed this to users without giving them a reason to opt out or filter out some things. Well, things are looking up.
— Eric A. Meyer (@meyerweb) October 13, 2015
It’s well established at this point that Facebook can make you sad, and things like this aren’t helping at all. As well-intentioned as On This Day is, you need to know how to protect yourself from things you don’t want to remember.
How to Block People in On This Day
Facebook now lets you block your friends or anyone else on Facebook if you don’t want to see memories associated with that person, like an ex after a bad breakup. Here’s how to do it.
- On a computer browser, go to Facebook.com/OnThisDay (sign in if prompted)
- Click Preferences
- Click Edit in the People field
- Type the name of the person you want to block, and choose the appropriate person from the suggestions Facebook offers
- Click “Save” and then “Done”
That’s it, memories associated with that person won’t show up in On This Day anymore. Bye Matt!
How to Block Dates or Date Ranges
Facebook also lets you block certain dates or entire date ranges, like a period from November 26 to 29 in 2008, when the Mumbai Terror Attack unfolded. Here’s how to do it.
- On a computer browser, go to Facebook.com/OnThisDay (and sign in if prompted)
- Click Preferences
- Click Edit in the Dates field
- Use the calendar to select Start and End dates to choose either a single day or a period of consecutive days
- Click “Save” and then “Done”
That’s it, memories from that particular day or range won’t show up. That date in other years will still show up though, so if you want to block “April 1” across all years, you’ll have to make individual entries for each year using the above process.
Turn Off “On This Day” Notifications
You can actually switch off “On This Day” notifications in your news feed entirely, just like you can get rid of annoying Facebook notifications. It’s a simple process too.
- On a computer browser, go to Facebook.com/OnThisDay (and sign in if prompted).
- Click “Notifications” and choose “Off”.
That’s really all there is to it. Now you won’t see On This Day suggestions in your news feed, but you can still check them out any time by going to the direct URL Facebook.com/OnThisDay.
Learn to Live with Your Past
You aren’t going to give up on Facebook, so these filters should let you use the social network without unnecessary stigma. But realize that these experiences, for better or worse, are part of your life now.
The way to move forward is to process that they happened, learn to live with them when they come up unexpectedly. It’s a hard journey, but in the long term, it’s healthier to accept and move on, than reject the past.
And once you’ve done that, click that “Share” button under your memories and show them to people. Remember, you don’t need to share them publicly, Facebook’s privacy options let you select the audience.
Do You Like On This Day?
You know, more often than not, Facebook’s On This Day feature actually ends up with pretty boring memories. But sometimes, it really brings up special moments.
Have you seen an uplifting or unpleasant memory on Facebook? How did you react? Tell us your story in the comments!