Memolane and other similar services offer an intriguing business proposition. They will remind you of what you wrote, thought and tweeted in the past, and so from time to time I get an email setting out what I did and said in different social media and I find it interesting. Much as brilliant author Donna Tartt notes in The Little Friend we are the stories we tell about ourselves as a family, and she cites the peculiar practice that many families (including mine) engage in, in telling the same stories about family members over and over again. Those stories become the narrative backbone of the family and create a sense of identity over time.
This is very close to what these memory services do. The little mementos become parts of me, just as if I was leafing through notes in a diary and found tidbits that reminded me of what happened a year ago or more.
But why would we like this? Why would we need to be reminded of what happened 6 months ago or 2 years ago? I think there is something fascinating going on here. Our need of the past, our yearning for it in “an idealized form” as the Wikipedia has it, is greater than ever before – we simply are more nostalgic than before. Nostalgic because of the pace of change and the speed with which everything happens, but also because of the fleeting nature of reality with perpetual crises in the economy, in jobs, in housing prices…
So we get cohesion and build identity from the little fragments that we have left behind in social media, we find stability and continuity in the memories served up through these new nostalgia services. Not only in services like Memolane, but also in I Done This and the peculiar new photo genre exemplified by Everyday, where people take pictures of themselves every day.
The new nostalgia services try to capture and tame time for us, as it seemingly has become more fleeting and passes more quickly than ever. They make us more real. Or as the advertising text for Everyday says, tongue-in-cheek:
Make a movie. You’d be surprised how great the effect of a time lapse video of your face can be. Watch yourself change, just like a real person.
Look for yourself: