As if we needed more opportunities to embarrass ourselves on Facebook, the world’s largest social network is abuzz with a new and questionably worthwhile game: Essentially, you surface your first-ever Facebook profile picture — and then nominate three friends to do the same.
It’s unclear where this thing started, exactly, but some tech blogs have prematurely christened it the new Ice Bucket Challenge or Neknomination. And while it’s difficult to quantify or track the spread of memes on Facebook, the term “first profile picture” has been tweeted 3,600 times in the past day — frequently in contexts like this:
“Not entirely sure why people are nominating each other to post their first profile picture on Facebook … what’s the point?” (Rachel @rachel_leahx)
C’mon, Rachel: This is Facebook. There is no point, per se.
But it’s easy to see how and why the “first profile picture” challenge has achieved some rapid virality. For starters, it relies on that sweet psychological mix of exhibitionism and peer pressure that propelled the Ice Bucket Challenge to global ubiquity: between that direct call to action from a personal friend, and the opportunity to show off how young/thin/hilarious you used to be, how can you not post, really?
On top of that, dredging up old photos taps into a universal nostalgia for an earlier time/self/social network. There’s an entire industry founded on these feels, actually, and business is booming. Recollect, a Web-based archiving service, promises to record “everything you do online” so that you can “find old memories” after the fact. TimeHop, an app whose sole purpose is surfacing things you’ve posted online in the past, is one of the App Store’s most popular social networking apps. (“Celebrate the best moments of the past with your friends,” it promises. “It’s like #tbt every day!”)
Take them as a reminder of a smaller, more innocent Internet — an Internet without dumb social “challenges” like these.