I was registered on Facebook before I lost touch with my old memories. And I can’t thank my old self enough for that decision. Facebook helps me visually trigger memory better than photographs.
An old picture is just a snapshot in time. The difference between you looking at it, as opposed to an image scanner, is that you are aware of the *context* behind the image. I am the facial recognition scanner that can identify individuals in the photograph. But Facebook gives me that much needed context.
One example of it’s context awareness, is in finding and suggesting friends. If I can’t find myself in a group shot taken a few years back, how can I identify, locate, and connect to people I went to school with?
That’s where Facebook helps. I create a profile on Facebook, and fill in details of my high school. Based on that information, Facebook automatically recommends people whom I might know. As I connect with people, it expands my network finding mutual friends, and so on.
For somebody with normal working memory, this wouldn’t be anything to write home about. But for a person like me with no auto-biographical memory, it’s the key in connecting to others, and through the connections I am discovering myself.
(Re) Connecting with familiar strangers
I look at Facebook’s “People You May Know” which as the page aptly says helps me “Find friends from different parts of your life”. At first there weren’t many suggestions with mutual friends. So I sent them a message via Facebook explaining my condition and asking if they know me. Lo and behold, more often than not, they did!
As my network grew, I started contacting people with whom I shared mutual friends, folks from school, teachers, colleagues, editors, publishers, co-authors, and just random people I had bumped into at conferences. Once they acknowledge, I follow up with my boilerplate message and request them to add the much needed “context” to our acquaintance.
I can’t even imagine connecting with the people I have managed to connect with, without Facebook. Even if I dug up old phone books, how would I reach out to batch mates in Manchester, and California, or my acquisition editor in Birmingham, my former editors in Bradenton, Florida, or my current ones in Bath, England?
The Memory Place page
I created the Memory Palace page to collate my past, that’s more readily accessible in brains dispersed geographically. The idea was to use it to communicate with friends and colleagues and use it as my very own Wikipedia (or SVN for the technically inclined). It’s world writeable so that my friends could use that space to write about me, where others could see their scribblings and build upon.
The other benefit is that by “liking” the page my friends would be exposing me to their network of friends, some of whom might be mutual ones. You could say I use Facebook to leverage on the “six degrees of separation” idea.