There are many platforms that have quickly become a free memory bank for the online community, in many cases thwarting the original purpose of many platforms.
How often do you see people posting content or images on social networks that would probably be better kept out of the public eye?
Alongside their primary function as a communications tool and news-gathering tool, social platforms are also places for us to store memories that may not be important enough for our brains to retain – hardly surprising when you consider the amount of information we’re tasked with retaining today.
Consider why have people have kept diaries for so many generations: To keep a log of their thoughts or experiences and record personal events that can be referred back to. To have access to their own version of history.
Our brains have a way of eliciting a cognitive recognition of events and experiences deemed too trivial to store in our own memories, filing them as short term; but they still can be interesting enough that we want to remember and record them. So we find a way.
User-generated content has become a major online industry, allowing the wider online community to see their opinions, thoughts and experiences influence others. Companies that harness user reviews, such as TripAdvisor and Urbanspoon, have turned user-generated content into a viable business model.
We’re now seeing an expansion of user-generated content into a ‘review for you’ (R4U) model, evolving alongside the ‘user-generated review’ (UGR) model.
UGR is all about utilising the joys of word-of-mouth, gathering content around a product/service based on how it is reviewed by the public. A measure of that model’s success is how the product/service owners respond to the feedback given through UGRs.
The R4U model is essentially the opposite. Rather than creating a blog or account for the world to see your thoughts and opinions, this model provides a private or semi-private place for people to store experiences and events that are only for them. This can range from funny images to ideas and aspirations.
For example, Facebook is more UGR than R4U. Its whole purpose is based on posting and sharing information with your network. Even with the ability to keep your account Private, having a Facebook account without a network defeats its intended purpose.
This is where the R4U model is different – this model relies on a user producing personal content as a way to record and remember their own experiences for themselves. If they deem those experiences to be pertinent to others with similar interests, then they share them.
Take Pinterest: the purpose of scrapbooking isn’t necessarily to share your ideas with others; it can allow you to collect a pool of experiences, things that you like and don’t necessarily want to share. You can have a ‘board’ that you don’t share with anyone. But Pinterest isn’t built for individuals – it is still built on content sharing and networking.
This isn’t necessarily the rise of the anti-social network platform – just a part of the continuing evolution of the way people use the online space for their personal use. You may want to record your experiences, but you don’t have to share them.