People Use 10-Year Challenge to Show How Devastatingly Different Our Planet Looks

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Around the globe, environmental organizations are taking advantage of the #10YearChallenge to show just how different our planet looks now versus then.

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Facebook’s ’10 Year Challenge’ Is Just a Harmless Meme—Right?

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Imagine that you wanted to train a facial recognition algorithm on age-related characteristics and, more specifically, on age progression (e.g., how people are likely to look as they get older). Ideally, you’d want a broad and rigorous dataset with lots of people’s pictures. It would help if you knew they were taken a fixed number of years apart—say, 10 years.

Sure, you could mine Facebook for profile pictures and look at posting dates or EXIF data. But that whole set of profile pictures could end up generating a lot of useless noise. People don’t reliably upload pictures in chronological order, and it’s not uncommon for users to post pictures of something other than themselves as a profile picture. A quick glance through my Facebook friends’ profile pictures shows a friend’s dog who just died, several cartoons, word images, abstract patterns, and more.

In other words, it would help if you had a clean, simple, helpfully labeled set of then-and-now photos.

The 2009 vs. 2019 Meme Is a Gift From Our Smartphones

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You saw it. We saw it. Everyone saw it. Slowly but surely this past weekend everyone started posting current pictures of themselves next to photos from 2009. Largely marked #2009vs2019 or #10yearchallenge the posts flooded Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. As might be expected, the meme quickly got picked up by those looking to make a point about the state of the world—or get LoLs—through posting political images or jokes about celebs, but the more personal side of it, the actual nostalgia bit, is a gift given to us by our devices.

The reasoning is simple: By 2009, thanks to the boom in smartphones, most folks had very decent cameras in their pockets at all times.