Rethinking Social Media Use As Personal Archiving

Categories Information Management, Thinking Out Loud

I came across an article that made me rethink Facebook as merely a platform for sharing and searching information. Published by Cornell University, The Many Faces of Facebook: Experiencing Social Media as Performance, Exhibition, and Personal Archive argues that people experience Facebook through performing and reflecting on their life experiences and identity. It was found that users curating their personal collection of data on Facebook correspond to three different “regions” or goals: “performance region for managing recent data and impression management, an exhibition region for longer term presentation of self-image, and a personal region for archiving meaningful facets of life.”

Typically, Facebook is thought of as a kind of digital scrapbooking—a place for individuals to organize images from their personal and social moments all in one place. However, since Facebook launched “Timeline,” the Facebook profile has evolved to allow individuals to select, edit, and archive aspects of their life and identity into a linear timeline. Facebook Timeline allows users to document milestones and life events such as a new birth, relationship, and employment. In doing so, Facebook provides its users with the ability to create personal archives of their lives which can be browsed by other users.

Various Social media platforms have been used by archives, historians, and researchers to understand the lives of the general public.  I wonder if Facebook can be used, much like  physical photo collections, to understand the personal experiences of its users. There is, however, a potential disconnect between the lived realities and curated experiences presented on Facebook. Users are able to post inaccurate and dishonest information about themselves for self-image preservation purposes. There are also ethical considerations to using Facebook for archival research. How can we ensure that the privacy of Facebook users is protected? With these things considered, I think it would be interesting to see what Facebook Timeline could tell us about ourselves.

Do you remember when Timeline was first introduced? The video below was one of the first ads from Facebook to reveal the new profile.

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