Christina from USV has a great post diving into why we publicly share information about ourselves online – emphasizing that the core problem it solves is not a user’s desire to publicly, but rather the ability to track our past.
She describes it much more eloquently in her post (which I highly recommend you read) – but put simply:
There’s much more I should unpack here, but to start: I believe the broadcasting that happens on Foursquare and similar services comes with a cost/benefit tradeoff, with the costs starting with the potential for awkward encounters (“oh, you saw I was in the neighborhood and stopped by my date? How … nice?”) and the benefits starting with the ability to export our annotations on the past – as well as those of our friends – onto the future. Perhaps broadcasting is only the mechanism, not the message.
People are naturally nostalgic creatures.
Memories make people happy – which is why they’re most prevalent when a person is lonely or sad.
As part of that – people like to keep things that are reminders of past times – small items, photos, or simply journal articles – that act as triggers for a memory.
Think of a traditional photo album – while my Mom may emphasize its value for sharing – she’s not necessarily sharing the photo itself – but rather sharing the memory that that photo represents.
As we moved to the web, this process became easier – users were more easily able to share information about past memories digitally – with very little friction.
In this lens, the growth of Myspace (Photobucket) and then Facebook can be seen not necessarily as the sharing of photos – but rather the sharing of memories – between small select groups of friends.
Moving to mobile, we’re one step from having a complete set of contextual details about a users entire life – enabling a user to eventually keep an almost comprehensive record of each important event in their life.
Foursquare was the first to tap into emotional nostalgia of memory via location.
While much has been said about the gaming and sharing aspects of Foursquare, Christina’s view that the product simply allows you to keep track of where you’ve been for personal cosumption puts the product in an entirely different light.
This is especially true when you begin to add additional layers of context to the location – with services like Instagram and now Soundtracking.
Collectively, these applications enable users to create a snapshot of a memory – for themselves or to share with others – that includes:
- With Whom
And then enables the user to add rich media in the form of pictures and audio to trigger the memory.
Moving into the future – services like Memolane are working on enabling users to bring their information together in one place to share and store for the future.
It’s the new diary.