Posting personal experiences on social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter could make those events much easier to recall, the first study to look at social media’s effect on memory suggests.
“If people want to remember personal experiences, the best way is to put them online,” said lead author of the study Qi Wang, professor at Cornell University in the US.
“Social media – blogs, Facebook, Twitter, and others alike – provide an important outlet for us to recall memories, in the public space, and share with other people,” said Wang.
Memory researchers have long known that when people write about personal experiences, reflect on them or talk about them with others, they tend to remember those events much better.
“The process of writing about one’s experiences in the public sphere, often sustained by subsequent social feedback, may allow people to reflect on the experiences and their personal relevance,” researchers said.
The act of posting on social media also plays a role in the construction of the self, said Wang.
“We create a sense of self in the process of recalling, evaluating and sharing with others memories of personal experiences in our lives,” she said.
“That’s happening when we use social media, without us even noticing it. We just think, ‘Oh, I’m sharing my experience with my friends.’ But by shaping the way we remember our experiences, it’s also shaping who we are,” she said
That is especially facilitated by the interactive functions on many social media sites. For example, Facebook periodically shows users photos and posts from previous years to remind them of those events, prompting users to revisit those experiences, researchers said.
“Memory is often selective. But in this case, the selection is not done by our own mind; it’s done by an outside resource.