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!”)
Don’t even get us started on #tbt: That schmaltzy, sepia-toned orgy of reminiscence has been celebrated some 300 million times on Instagram alone.
So give in, Rachels of the Internet! Like it or not, the grinning, flash-washed faces of a hundred younger Facebook friends are coming for your News Feed.
Take them as a reminder of a smaller, more innocent Internet — an Internet without dumb social “challenges” like these.