Bottom Line: Accessibility to social media archives with APIs and analysis of that data may have more to teach us about ourselves than we’ll want to know.
For years, we’ve playfully teased the patriarchs in my family for repeating the same stories and jokes at our family gatherings. Honestly we love it, since we get to learn to anticipate our favorite parts, and perhaps help embellish a bit here an there. We especially love ol’ Grandpa and his widely appreciated tendency to laugh just as hard at the same joke every time he hears it, year after year.
I thought of this the other day as I reflected upon my ability to look at the thoughts I’ve shared over time. For a dollar or two — or perhaps even free — anyone can install on their phone an app that pulls in and archives all their status updates, Tweets, checkins, etc. There are apps and webapps that can then analyze those posts to tell users details about their posting habits (although I suspect that this data is much more frequently used by third parties for tailoring advertising — this is how we pretend that all this amazing software is actually “free”).
While it will be deeply interesting to explore this unprecedented data repository — the closest prior generations could come is likely the early adopters of digital journals — I think it will also be rife with insipid disappointments. For example, I will most likely eventually discover that not only had countless others posted the exact same quip that made me so pleased with myself… but that I myself had posted it 20 some-odd months ago. And perhaps a few years before that as well. I’ll probably discover that not only am I less original than I think I am, but that I’m unwittingly ripping off my own material, which may be in part why it resonates with me so comfortably years later.