All Tech Considered


Social media is all about now, about what's going on in this very moment. Twitter asks what's happening when it prompts you to update. But Alex Schmidt reports on one news service that's promising the exact opposite - a kind of social media scrapbook.

ALEX SCHMIDT: My sister Anita has been on Facebook since the beginning -seven years. She's been posting pictures that entire time.

Ms. ANITA SCHMIDT: Usually it's either like, friends or family or like, novelty - just something I think is really funny or random, that I see.

SCHMIDT: She hasn't exactly considered that she's been creating a history of her life. A new product, called Memolane, makes a graphic online album on a timeline, by date, of all your social media history: Twitter, Facebook, Flickr, YouTube,, Vimeo, Foursquare.

Ms. SCHMIDT: Wait, OK. This is funny, actually. Wait, what was - what were we doing?

SCHMIDT: Anita and I used Memolane to look back at a trip to Paris we took three years ago - pictures, tweets, all of it.

Ms. SCHMIDT: We both at the same time decided to take a picture of ourselves at the Notre Dame Cathedra. And it was a competition to see who could take a better picture of the two of us with Notre Dame. Look, mine is totally better.

SCHMIDT: We created photo albums after the trip. But neither of us had realized that our social media usage from that time could be an album itself.

Mr. MARSHALL KIRKPATRICK (Co-editor, ReadWriteWeb): Our experience on the Internet is just at the very, very beginning.

SCHMIDT: Marshall Kirkpatrick is a co-editor of the tech blog ReadWriteWeb.

Mr. KIRKPATRICK: We are producing so much more data now than ever before. It's not going away. But that's always been thought of as a problem, and not an opportunity.

SCHMIDT: With a product like Memolane, we can instantly access a detailed historic record of our lives. But that could change the way we feel about our past. Jeff Olick is a professor of sociology at the University of Virginia who studies memory. He says in order to feel nostalgic, we need to have distance from the past.

Professor JEFF OLICK (Sociology, University of Virginia): So if these sites make our past more present to us, then it may end up failing to create that sense of distance.

SCHMIDT: So, say you moved out of an old apartment, and then looked at a picture of it every single day after. You probably wouldn't miss it too much.

Prof. OLICK: So maybe it'll make us less nostalgic.

SCHMIDT: My sister and I hadn't relived our Paris experience for a while, so the memories held their magic.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. SCHMIDT: Little Miss Finch, ready for her close-up.

SCHMIDT: Nice as it was, Anita doesn't plan to constantly go over the past on Memolane.

Ms. SCHMIDT: It allows you to, like - you know, stroll down memory lane. But that's not something that everybody needs to do every single day.

SCHMIDT: Maybe not but a sappy procrastinator like me could end up strolling more often than I should.

For NPR News, I'm Alex Schmidt.

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