In just 3 days, the #10YearChallenge has garnered over 5 million posts on Facebook alone. Everyone loved it.

Yes, even our Prime Minister jumped on the bandwagon.

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2009 vs 2019: I kid myself that not much has changed after 10 years, other than my hair colour and hair line! My hair is greyer and thinner, but I’m still enjoying what I do. :) – LHL #10YearChallenge
#MerdekaGeneration (L: Photo from Ministry of Information and the Arts Collection, courtesy of National Archives of Singapore / R: MCI Photo by Betty Chua)

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This challenge is an easy excuse to do a narcissistic #throwback, in the name of comparing how different you look since 10 years ago.

Beyond this, the #10YearChallenge has revealed something more significant than how hard puberty hit you – something more important than your questionable fashion choices when you were a teenager.

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Want to challenge go to @challenger.sg lah. .. #comparing2photosisnotachallenge #yalalookdifferentla #ganina #theprojectorsg #cinemasg

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The challenge led many users to start noticing how casual the culture of self-representation was on social media 10 years ago, as compared to the carefully-curated and picture-perfect culture that exists now in 2019.

Remember the days when you would upload a whole album of unfiltered, uncurated and candid photos onto Facebook, within an album titled something unwittingly simple like “Day Out With Classmates”?

That was 2009 – a whopping ten years ago, when there was no context collapse to worry about as we post photos online for a close group of friends, without the pressure of having to account to acquaintances, colleagues, family members, etc.

It reminds us of a time when social media was purely about being social, not about matching up to everyone else’s highlight reel. We didn’t even have to worry about privacy concerns on Facebook, trolling and harassment.

Today, some users stay away from social media platforms because of the lethal combination of constant upward social comparison and unwarranted amounts of undesirable “sponsored” and inorganically-driven posts.

Furthermore, recent events at Facebook has caused users to lose trust in the global social media company. Here’s an explanatory video on what’s wrong with it:

According to a new report, a third of millennials in the United States have deleted their Facebook accounts. Most said they were quitting because they felt it was a waste of time and social media was making them think negatively.

Instead of being on social media for the sake of connecting with people like we mostly did in 2009, nowadays we find social media to be a standard for real life. We are reminded constantly to improve ourselves and consume things we don’t actually want to.

Where there is people, there will be social relations and social comparisons. This norm of comparing with others has been exacerbated by the accessibility and frequency of social media right at our fingertips.

Here’s an award-winning short film that summarises the outrageously sneaky ways we let our virtual selves dictate our reality:

The most widespread criticism of the #10YearChallenge, however, is less about the change in social media culture but more of questioning what’s in it for Facebook with this surge of then-and-now posts.

It suggests that it’s actually a ploy devised by Facebook to help train facial recognition algorithms on age progression.

Tech writer Kate O’Neill started the conversation in a Twitter thread that went viral, which she later expanded on in a column for Wired.

Facebook, which also owns Instagram, said in a statement that they had no role in starting this meme and has no benefit in its virality.

Perhaps this very questioning on why certain memes exist is a case-in-point as to how skeptical we have become about Facebook.

At the end of the day, data collection ploy or not, the massive response and participation in the user-generated #10YearChallenge is revealing the nostalgia of not only our younger selves, but also the carefree culture social media used to have.

It’s impossible to predict how self-representation on social media will evolve over the next 10 years, but given the increasing skepticism of social media culture, we’re hopeful users will take due diligence in ensuring that it wouldn’t be as unnecessarily staged as it is now.

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