Reflection in social media

Earlier this week Dave Blanchard, a colleague of mine, asked an interesting question on Twitter:

Has social media pushed self-reflection out in favor of self-projection? Is there time for both?

Reading this made me first think of Slow Design, a movement I’ve been tracking for a few years now. It began as an offshoot of the Slow Food movement and holds similar goals of fostering deeper connections, promoting reflection, and focusing on longer time frames. A slow design is one that affords and promotes these types of behaviors. Can social media be slow?

The second thing I thought of was an episode of To The Best of Our Knowledge that I heard on NPR recently. The first segment was an interview with David Bainbridge, biologist and author of Teenagers: A Natural History, on the makeup of the teenage mind where he discussed the intensity of the brain’s growth during that time period and how it leads to an almost overwhelming level of self-reflection unlike any other time in our lives. Given this, do teenagers tend to use social media simultaneously for reflection and projection? Anecdotally, it seems like teens mix these modes more than adults. I makes me want to dig into danah boyd’s ethnographic work on teens and social media to learn more.

Finally, it reminded me of Momento, an iPhone app I’ve been enjoying “which provides a quick and easy way to record ‘moments’ throughout your day.” It is essentially a diary app with a subtle and beautiful interface design, but the twist is the way it connects to and displays your social media projections alongside your private reflections. The integration of the two is simple and straightforward; it displays Twitter posts and Flickr photos chronologically mixed with your Momento entries. The effect, however, is much more profound as it promotes additional reflection on the difference in tone and content between the private and the social.

The reason Dave’s question prompted me to make these connections, and to write this post, is that I hope social media isn’t having this effect. Obviously there are those who use it only for self promotion, but as the medium matures perhaps we will see more adaptations like Momento that build upon these platforms in new ways. Perhaps the accumulation of social media over many years will grow to naturally promote reflection as our archives mix the self-projection of today with that of a very different future self.