nah : 01.2016 : the fleeting moment of social media (Culture & Sociology, Internet)
We generally think of social media as a tool to make grand announcements and to document important times, but just as often – if not more – it’s just a tin can phone, an avenue by which to toss banal witterings into an uncaring universe. Rather, it’s a form of thinking out loud, of asserting a moment for ourselves on to the noisy face of the world.
The mostly useless On This Day feature makes clear how fragile our histories online are becoming. If we’re channeling our energy into hot takes, context-dependent tweets and fleeting daily status updates, where are we storing our actual histories?
Though I’m an avid, dependent social media user, my childhood is documented in a shoebox of physical photos and a couple of notebooks. My parents treasure a few photo albums and a little set of squiggly VHS tapes, and that is all we have. I grew up with the idea of memory as intimate and owned, significant events and times folded lovingly and tucked away in the home. Today we stagger under daily records served up to us without our permission, by platforms we hardly trust, in formats that mean little to us, of snippets and half-thoughts we never intended to remember. Sometimes it’s even impossible to permanently destroy the things we want to forget, and they remain etched forever on the internet’s endless memory for strangers to find.
In 10 years, will you want your daily weather complaints filed alongside your ancient political causes, your cries for help, your old relationships and your minor headaches – in a theoretical cabinet owned by someone else? How can we reliably access the things we’d like to remember, instead of the mental clutter we’d like to forget? What would a more permanent, more substantial, more valuable “disk image” of ourselves look like online, and what kind of solution could arise to host it?