Liz Gannes

Recent Posts by Liz Gannes

Social Media Gets a Past: Links From a Life Lived Online

I’ve been surprised to realize lately that social media has awakened my sense of nostalgia. It seems ironic, given our collective emphasis on the new and the now. I love receiving the daily emails from Timehop and Memolane that remind me what I posted on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram on that day in previous years.

It’s not just the photos of my dog as a puppy and parties I’ve forgotten I attended; it’s also the time capsules of what I thought was interesting at the time.

And, how meta: For me, that was often social media itself.

For instance, here are some of the pings I’ve gotten from Timehop and Memolane this week:

  • Five years ago today, I tweeted a link to a Facebook company blog post noting a measurable and predictable decline in Facebook usage on Thursday night when “Grey’s Anatomy” aired. At the time, Facebook had only just recently opened up beyond students, and it was seeing peaks of one million users logged into the site at once. “When something occupies a big portion of the population’s attention, we notice,” wrote co-founder Dustin Moskovitz (who since left the company and is now co-founder of Asana). Now that Facebook is so much more global, it’s hard to imagine a single TV program having that kind of regular effect.

    Facebook usage plummeted during Grey's Anatomy airings in 2007.

  • This week in 2010, I posted a link to an article citing a Google engineer saying Google personalized up to 20 percent of users’ Web searches. That might have seemed like a lot at the time, but Google has gotten massively more personalized since then, with logged-in searchers by default now seeing “Search Plus Your World” results and Google+ content promoted.
  • Almost five years ago, just after the 2007 edition of SXSW, The Wall Street Journal posted a story examining the emerging phenomenons of Twitter and Dodgeball. Jack Dorsey was quoted as saying, “You find a lot of connection in just the simplest, most mundane updates from your friends.” I recently reposted the link to the article on Twitter after finding it on my Memolane, and got to see people’s reactions to it five years later. Foursquare CEO Dennis Crowley replied to my tweet, “In high school/1994 I made a bet w my Dad over who could get their name in WSJ first. This article won me $100 :).”

These memories seem particularly precious because they’ve traditionally been hard, if not nearly impossible, for us to find. Facebook only recently introduced its Timeline layout, which makes old posts accessible. Twitter is just barely starting to make historical tweets available, through reseller deals with Gnip and DataSift.

I realize not all memories are happy, or wanted. The European Union, for instance, is trying to legislate an online “right to be forgotten.” But I have to say, I’m kind of excited to some day get a notification about what I tweeted 20 years ago.

For a blast from the slightly more recent past, here are our previous stories about the companies behind Timehop and Memolane.

(Scrapbook image via Flickr user meglet127.)


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Another gadget you don’t really need. Will not work once you get it home. New model out in 4 weeks. Battery life is too short to be of any use.

— From the fact sheet for a fake product entitled Useless Plasticbox 1.2 (an actual empty plastic box) placed in L.A.-area Best Buy stores by an artist called Plastic Jesus