Digital Self-Discovery: How to Hold on to Your Digital Memories Forever
We create a lot of data. So much so that, in the last two years, we’ve collectively created 90% of all the data ever created in the history of humankind. And there’s no sign that we’re slowing down.
And buried in all that content are our memories: photos, videos, quotes, notes, essays, emails, and moments we want to hold onto forever. Our parents may have a few albums of photos from their youth, but we will have terabytes of digital exhaust. So how will we hold onto our memories, let alone share the relevant ones with the next generation?
Just a few weeks ago, a Kickstarter project for the Memoto Lifelogging Camera took the crowd-funding site by storm. The wearable camera promises to automatically take photos everywhere you go, recording your life in literal snapshots that you can browse later. The project bypassed its $50,000 fundraising goal in less than five hours—but I couldn’t help but wonder what I’d do with all those photos.
The magnitude of our social media data is similarly overwhelming—if we even have access to it at all. In his keynote at the Online News Association’s annual conference in September, Twitter CEO Dick Costolo hinted that by the end of the year we might be able to download our entire Twitter history. For some early users, that could be literally tens of thousands of tweets.
But data dumps like these are useless without data mining tools. So, if Web 2.0 was about creating content, the next step is curating the masses of it we’re creating every day. Discovery is the new Search.
And the hottest trend in digital discovery is self-discovery—intelligently mining the trail of digital breadcrumbs we’ve been diligently dropping for years. The ability to store and surface our memories is just as important as the ability to create them, so it’s no surprise that an industry is popping up to help us curate our own past.
Enter Recollect, the new tool from three Flickr alums: Bertrand Fan, Chris Martin, and Timoni West. The web tool promises to download and store all of your social media content and provide meaningful analytics and discovery tools. Recollect launched its public beta on October 25 with Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, and (of course) Flickr. Currently, the tool can only pull your 3,200 most recent tweets, but Recollect is well-positioned to be the go-to source for storing our all of our personal digital chronicles.
In the world of memory storage, August Capital and Atomico-backed Memolane is vying to dominate the digital memory market. Once you’ve synced your social media accounts (Memolane supports nearly 20 services including Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare, and Instagram), Memolane serves up daily emails with digital nuggets from that day two, three, or four years ago. You could also check out Momento, an app that archives your social activity and lets you keep a personal diary.
If mining your own thoughts is of interest, I recommend OhLife, a digital journaling tool that sends a regular email prompt for your thoughts. I use it to store a simple gratitude journal—every day at 10 PM, OhLife emails me to ask what five things I’m grateful for that day. All I have to do it reply to the email and everything is stored for me in the cloud. One of my favorite features is the “random” button on the OhLife site that pulls up a random entry from the past. It’s a good reminder of where I’ve been, how I felt, and what I have to be happy about. (Also, I can’t wait to have a full year of data so I can export all my data in a text file for analysis. It’s a data nerd’s dream.)
Nervous about digital memory storage? Consider the analog option: the One Line a Day Five-Year Memory Book. This lazy-man’s journal requires nothing more than a one-sentence recap of your day, but the beauty is in the history. Each day’s entry is written below the year before, giving you an easy peek into a half-decade of your life. Great gift for the holidays.
Technology has provided us with an infinite number of byte-sized ways to record our lives, but maybe what we really need is an easy way to swallow the best bite-sized memories. Data is great, but only if it tells a story. With a new wave of technology focused on memory curation, it looks like these startup services might be the solution. Just don’t forget which ones you signed up for!
Photo courtesy of Ken Lee.
Anneke is a founding executive and leads the business side of Reserve, one of Fast Company's Most Innovative companies of 2016. She joined Reserve from the Google Creative Lab where she led teams building the future of tech. An advisor to NPR and a startup veteran, she is an experienced entrepreneur and storyteller who speaks and writes on topics related to technology and culture. She lives in Brooklyn and can be found online at @annekejong.More from this Author