Where social media first started it was clunky and slow, little more than threaded conversations on a platform with a lot of people talking at once. It’s become a lot more nuanced and subtle, with groups and privacy settings as well as notification control that means no two people quite use the platforms in the same way.
The most highly transient, like twitter, have been working to make their conversations work better by making them more enduring, whilst the least transient, like LinkedIn, are moving in the other direction. Why?
Human memory is an amazing thing, we can recall events and things people said from decades ago, we’ll find ourselves singing along to a riff we haven’t heard for years, yet we can’t remember if we just locked the car as we walk away from it.
Social media, and indeed the internet as a whole, is evolving to a similar model. Google’s algorithms, which used to give perfect recall, now don’t they seek to recall contextually and are getting better at that. They know who is searching as well as what they have searched for, so when you search for a coach, an event booker will tend to get information about 53 seater buses, and a business owner about who can help him resolve his people issues.
Tweets once flown used to disappear, now they can be embedded and locked into other memories and contexts, more easily recalled. Facebook updates are being pushed back to us on anniversaries so that we can embed those that matter in our psyche. LinkedIn’s recent purchase by Microsoft will likely bring email and social updates closer, and make the important stand out in different ways. Yet often what we say only has momentary interaction and engagement, drifting into the long good night without a fanfare. Recalling those things takes effort and dedication to trawl through the history or the results of searches that were poorly formed because we really can’t work out exactly what to search for.
Quietly, almost without noticing we’ve outsourced our memory to social media, and now they are having to create the right sorts of forgetfulness so we can make sense of it all.