An early 2019 meme known as #10yearchallenge, that concerned somebody sharing a picture from 2008 or 2009 subsequent to at least one from 2018 or 2019, gained great widespread traction and inside days unfold like a virus throughout social media.
It’s unclear the place it began, however was most likely prompted by Fb’s characteristic that brings again previous reminiscences (together with photos) on customers’ partitions. Initially it was known as #HowHardDidAgingHitYou because it was supposed to indicate simply that. It developed to #GlowingUp to indicate how effectively many aged, earlier than it turned generally known as the #10yearchallenge. Quickly it was additionally throughout Twitter and Instagram. Celebrities dined out on it, atypical folks internationally adopted swimsuit and took part enthusiastically.
On the floor this phenomenon was merely superficial enjoyable. In truth it’s supplied an fascinating window on society. There are two explicit insights I’ve drawn from the explosion of curiosity in #10yearchallenge.
The primary is how effectively individuals who posted photographs of themselves have aged. In some instances, there was hardly any change within the individuals’ faces, hair, weight or bearing. Take international celebrities like Jessica Biel and Rihanna as examples.
The second is the problem of sharing photographs that may very well be used for nefarious causes. A variety of alert expertise watchers have warned that the #10yearchallenge could also be greater than innocent enjoyable. Seen sceptically, individuals within the problem may very well be enjoying into the arms of surveillance businesses or corporations exactly as a result of all the photographs can simply be mined for information.
It may very well be argued that the #10yearchallenge is offering folks with the chance to indicate off their longevity. With mottos similar to “50 is the brand new 30”, not solely is the ageing inhabitants, notably in developed international locations, rising in numbers, they’re changing into youthful wanting judged by appearances.
This obsession with youthfulness, of the older era wanting youthful in a distorted inversion of age and youth, jogged my memory of German director Damir Lukacevic’s science fiction movie Switch (2010). It took this future state of affairs to a doubtlessly dystopian conclusion.
It reveals how the wealthy aged have the chance to turn into “immortal” by swapping our bodies with youthful refugees and different marginalised youths. The one group has cash and energy however time is working out, whereas the opposite solely have youthfulness on their facet. Youthfulness turns into the transferable and extremely sought-after commodity. And it highlights how the haves should purchase something, together with longevity.
However there’s a demographic twist to this narrative.
Clearly, persons are ageing higher today. If one needed to examine photographs of our pretty latest ancestors over 10 years intervals, the ageing course of may need been extra apparent and dramatic previously. It might simply be that every one the Bantings, Ketos, Botox and lotions are working! And in some instances, social media filters and photoshopping as effectively.
The #10yearchallenge informed the world in regards to the bettering age, welfare and well being of a selected cohort of individuals: those that use social media. The quantity of web customers worldwide in 2018 was 3.196 billion. However a latest Pew analysis survey confirmed that for instance, simply one-in-five adults in India and Tanzania use social networks, and all 5 sub-Saharan African international locations surveyed report social media is way decrease.
As a result of this huge digital divide we don’t understand how the most important a part of the poorer international south aged. We will, nonetheless, safely assume that it’s nowhere in addition to the north.
The #10yearchallenge went past exhibiting off, enjoyable, irony and wit. A number of social media customers posted photographs that illustrated the sharp distinction between the handsome ageing human inhabitants and the deteriorating setting.
Pictures of rain forests in 2009 in comparison with 2019, locations the place rivers as soon as flowed, or ahead projections of extinct or close to extinct animals in 2019 in contrast with 2029. Nature appears to be disappearing whereas we’re thriving.
The sinister finish of the spectrum
Expertise writer Kate O’Neill has defined that the #10yearchallenge offers the proper uncooked materials for establishing a facial recognition algorithm. The then-and-now pictures are perfect for such an train – they’re clear, easy and helpfully labelled.
Fb denied that the #10yearchallenge was a type of social engineering. However O’Neill reminded us of the mass information extraction of greater than 70 million US Fb customers by information analytics agency Cambridge Analytica. It harvested tens of millions of Fb profiles of US voters and used them to construct a strong software program programme to foretell and affect decisions on the US poll field.
O’Neill suggests three believable eventualities for the usage of facial recognition.
Within the benign state of affairs it may assist discover lacking children, particularly after they’ve been lacking for some time.
On the mundane facet, facial recognition may very well be helpful for focused promoting.
However there’s a extra sinister facet to facial recognition makes use of, elevating main privateness issues. As O’Neill cautions:
the police may use the expertise not solely to trace people who find themselves suspected of getting dedicated crimes, but additionally people who find themselves not committing crimes, similar to protesters and others whom the police deem a nuisance.
She goes on to say:
The broader message, faraway from the specifics of anyone meme and even anyone social platform, is that people are the richest information sources for many of the expertise rising on this planet. We should always know this, and proceed with due diligence and class.
For individuals who nonetheless contemplate memes as innocent and harmless info sharing maybe it’s time to rethink. Memes just like the #10yearchallenge have turn into ideological barometers that carry social that means and context. Whether or not seen as bait to place our faces and data on-line for algorithmic mining or interpreted as signifiers of human ageing, the #10yearchallenge meme says rather a lot about what it means to be human in a digital age.