Home How We Are Blurring Public & Private Memories

How We Are Blurring Public & Private Memories

1000memories.com released its Shoebox Facebook app in January of this year, giving Facebook users the opportunity to scan old photos from the past and post them to their profiles. This update happened around the same time as the rollout of Facebook Timeline, yet another tool for looking at and examining your “Facebook past.” Many opted to clean it up, limiting past posts to friends-only. It’s safer that way, you know.

After seeing tremendous interest in the Shoebox app, 1000memories decided to take the memories idea a step further, adding complete Shoeboxes – curated collections of photos from the past. So now, rather than upload each one individually, the user can throw together a batch and upload it in full. How is this shift toward making public on Facebook images that were once private, intended for sharing via a photo album or in-person, changing the way we think about intended audience? After all, when users signed up for Facebook, they didn’t expect that one day it would become one of the main ways to connect with family and friends who live near and far away.

“People are looking for a repository of old photos from the past, and they are selectively choosing ones that they think will do well on social media,” says 1000memories Founder Rudy Adler. “Really, they’re looking for a place to put ‘lost photos,’ whether they’re paper photos from the closet or images that were shot between 2000-2005 when digital cameras were really big, and people accumulated hard drives’ worth of photos.”

Yet when people shot those photos, who was the intended audience? These are not Instagram images, or Polaroids for the social media era. The photographer may not have even thought about the audience at all. This is something that’s being lost in the social-networked era – every status update or post you make must take audience into account.

Data from users on 1000memories showed that in 2011, there was a 13% increase in the number of people who scanned a photo. Even more interesting, a photo from 1980 received 24% more comments than a photo shot and uploaded today.

Additional data from 1000memories shows that an increasing amount of one’s history is digital. For a teenager today, 86% of their memory is digital; that number decreases to 72% for a 25-year-old, 56% for a 45-year-old and only 12% for a 65-year-old. And many kids born after 2000 may not even have access to a physical photo of themselves.

“We have moved from a world in which knowledge exists in documents, physical photos and people’s heads to a world in which information is stored digitally and accessible to anyone, anywhere,” writes Jonathan Good on the 1000memories blog.

Well, almost. Not everyone wants their personal family photos ending up on Google Images.

“We have found that a secure, private space leads to much more engagement,” says Adler. “There’s a different level of conversation when you know you’re not talking to 600 people; you’re only talking to three people who were on the trip that’s pictured in the photo.”

It’s the difference between speaking in front of a crowd, and speaking privately with a few close friends. Yet an increasing interest in privacy is nothing new, especially when it comes to Facebook. Users freaked out when news leaked that Path had been uploading their address books. Google Circles help users segment their fellow Google+ users, making it clearer with whom you’re sharing what.

Yet there is still a push toward becoming fully public. Earlier this week, Timehop, the service that searches your social media past (Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram) to show you what you were doing one year ago today, just updated. Now users can add Pinterest-like boards, which can be made public to “spur social interactions with friends online.” Or they can just opt to make their memories public, adding them to the collective Internet memory.

Images courtesy of 1000memories.

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