Do you remember your last tweet or last story that you post?
Over the past decade, our access to and exposure to the media has increased dramatically, particularly in terms of the quantity and accessible modalities that have widespread implications for various aspects of human life. The presence of the media determines how we relate to strangers and how we view life as a whole. Perhaps the influence of the media on human memory and how it impacts the way we recall history is one of these less widely discussed consequences.
In this regard, some researches have been conducting parallel with the increasing domination of social platforms in our life. In 2018 the article "Media usage diminishes memory for experiences" by academics was lead by Diana I. Tamir from Princeton University was published in Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. The study does not focus on those memory losses were originating from the content that we were being exposed to. On the contrary, it has an inclusive look at the issue to grasp on it, because we are not passive objects in this equation but active participants who provide the most medium on platforms.
A Brief History of Social Media Platforms
In the early 2010s, there hadn't been even a billion people using social media platforms, but the numbers climbed over 2 billion within the next half decade. By 2019, Facebook, as the largest social media platform, has 2.4 billion users just itself. When we include YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter, the number exceeds nearly 3.5 billion people online. It is nearly half of the world population, which is 7.8 billion by September 2020. 1. Moreover, the use of social media continues to increase in the following years.
Content Shift in Cross-Medium Perspective
Most of the platforms that could handle the competition and kept themselves in the market began to involve each other's space through content and medium that they are using during the last decade. For instance, Twitter hadn't had image and video facilities since it was founded back in 2006 to 2011 when the company provides image and video sharing that year. The next year, Twitter announced they acquired Vine the popular video-sharing platform. In 2013, Vine launched as a free app for IOS and Android devices. Hence, Twitter persist on use of graphic contents have gained a significant place within the platform a today more then half of its contents consist of image and video. Via its that leap, Twitter became one of the pioneers of multiple medium platforms. Instagram had continued as a purely photo-sharing platform till 2013, and after that date, the company incorporated short duration video (15 seconds at that time).
That video limit has increased gradually by years when it comes to 2017, 10 minutes of video became available to be shared in one post without any limitation. Even though, the major social media platforms increase their video duration limits gradually by years, a harsh Chinese competitor, TikTok appeared outside in foreign markets by 2018. Compared to other platforms, TikTok was on another lane. That new platform is based on 'lip-synch' and 'comedy' videos from 3 to 60 second, have had a shocking impact on youth worldwide so much so that it became a part in US-China economical conflict and even it was included the matter of negotiation by Donald Trump.2
The Live Stream Dimension
However, those were not the only developments in the cross-medium transformation in social media platforms. Via 2016, social media platforms began to give a larger focus on live streaming services. In an event taking place in New York City in May 2017, the company announced that it planned to construct a 24-hour streaming video channel hosted within the service.3 Via this attempt of Twitter was perceived it was establishing an alternative TV system with a chain of agreements consist of multiple partners. A year after, Instagram also launched its standalone live stream service IGTV. Appear of live stream brought another dimension to social media platforms and intensify a newly establishing phenomenon of new alternative media and accelerate the demolishing of conventional media services like TV and printed press and social media platforms began to take up people's time where they used to spend for conventional media medium previously.
This new media establishing through those social media platforms came with multiple benefits for the people. For instance, people are being left free to create their virtual atmospheres for the following order of the day or they are able to create their own space for socializing on those platforms. Hence, they started to spend more and more time on those channels they are involving in.
While the time they were spending increased, they were exposed to more graphic content. The rise in the use of social media over the last decade has, of course, been combined with a dramatic increase in the amount of time people spend online. People spend a lot of hours online every day in developed and developing countries. The number of hours young people spend on the Internet in several rich countries. As we can see, the OECD average is more than 4 hours a day, and in certain countries, the average is more than 6 hours a day.4Those increase in communication through social media may come with some negative aspects, due to the textual and visual data we have been exposed daily.
Social Media and Remembering
The use of social media platforms via active involvement like sharing still images, videos, or even thoughts in textual form may not lead to a direct dissolution of memory in the short run. However, it is recorded that such acts reduce personal memory's involvement in every day's experiences of the individual because of distraction on the experience. Therefore, it may lead to worse remembrance rates significantly.5 With the advent of mobile devices and social media, we can externalize not only information but also the memory of our most enjoyable encounters. While these memories may be stored on our computers, what remains in our memory may be reduced like Snapchat messages or Instagram stories vanished in 24 hours.
For instance, let's think about TikTok. It can be regarded as an external storage source that illustrates the role that social media plays in how well we remember things. Engaging in social media may decrease the memory of interactions during an event or some sort of externalization of their perception of an event as lower as 15 seconds.
It is also possible that, given our regular recording of significant events, our generation and subsequent generations will not recall historical events as vividly or as accurately as previous generations. Most significantly, we rely on external outlets, such as Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, and even TikTok to remember significant events, and place great responsibility on us to become reliable recorders of the past.
2 Arbel, Tali (6 August 2020). "Trump bans dealings with Chinese owners of TikTok, WeChat". Associated Press. Archived from the original on 7 August 2020. Retrieved October 28, 2020.
3 "Twitter still thinks it's a TV platform — and here are its dozen new shows". Re/code. Vox Media. May 2, 2017. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
4 https://www.bondcap.com/report/itr19/. Retrieved October 29, 2020.
5 Tamir, D. I., Templeton, E. M., Ward, A. F., & Zaki, J. (2018). Media usage diminishes memory for experiences. Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, 76, 161-168.