Social media — “friends,” “likes,” status updates, check-ins — forces us to live in a perpetual present tense with no long-term memory. Tweets that get pushed down too far into the past get lost; god knows what happens to Facebook status updates. But if these digital scintillae are ever going to become a real basis for forming emotional memories, we need to be able to “fix” them somehow. Enter “Social Memories,” a Facebook app that analyzes the glob of personal data you heedlessly throw into Zuckerberg’s maw and visualizes it as attractive infographics that you can have printed out as an actual keepsake book. Just like grandma’s photo album (but much, much weirder)!
Before you scoff at the notion of capturing status updates for posterity, it’s hard to deny Social Memories’ keen eye for data visualization. Status updates and “Likes” are near-pointless individually, but in aggregate they really do form a pointillistic image of what you were really thinking, feeling and doing at any given point in your social-media-augmented life.
In aggregate, Facebook likes form a pointillistic image of you.
It’s the same thinking that led Nick Felton to create his beloved “Feltron Annual Reports” about how many stairs he climbed or lattes he drank over the course of a year. Like Felton’s cheeky-but-also-sincere work, Social Memories touts its “infographics that show your social highlights and trends,” “elegantly designed to present your memories with clarity.” Underneath the flip attitude, though, Social Memories is attempting something unique and necessary in the evolution of this medium: namely, allowing space for nostalgia.