Facebook posts not easily forgotten

Facebook posts resonate significantly more with human nature than books or even human faces, according to a new study by Laura Mickes and colleagues from the University of California San Diego in the US.

The difference in memory between these microblogs and actual published words from a page is as striking as the difference in memory between amnesiacs and healthy controls. The work is published online in Springer's journal Memory & Cognition.

Online social networking is very popular, and allows people to post their thoughts as microblogs, an opportunity that people exploit on Facebook alone over thirty million times an hour. Contrary to what some might think, such 'trivial ephemera' does not vanish quickly from memory - in fact quite the opposite.

How the study was done

Mickes and team investigated memory of microblogs. In a series of experiments with undergraduate students, they compared the memorability of Facebook posts compared to either human faces or sentences from books. They also looked at whether Facebook posts might be memorable because they stimulate social thinking i.e. create links to other people or situations, such as "that is something my friend would post."

Results of the first two experiments showed that participants' memory for Facebook posts was strikingly stronger than for either human faces or sentences from books. And this difference was not attributable to social elaboration i.e. mentally linking posts to other events, situations or people.

The authors also looked at whether Facebook posts were particularly memorable because they constitute coherent and complete ideas. To find out, they compared memory for both news headlines and sentences from stories with reader comments on news or entertainment articles. Their analyses showed that it was reader comments that were most memorable.The remarkable memory for microblogs is thus not due to either their completeness or simply their subject matter, but more likely to some combination of the two and also to the comments being the spontaneously generated natural language of ordinary people.

The authors conclude: "Our work introduces and investigates a new phenomenon - incredible memorability of microblogs. These especially memorable Facebook posts, generated by ordinary people, may be far closer than professionally crafted sentences to tapping into the basic language capacities of our minds. Perhaps the very sentences that were so effortlessly generated are, for such a reason, the same ones that are so readily remembered."

(EurekAlert, January 2013)

Read more:

Facebook may inflate self-esteem

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
What are your thoughts on the possibility of having permanent Stage 2 or 3 load shedding?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Results
I'll take that over constant schedule changes
13% - 652 votes
Why are we normalising Eskom’s mess?
72% - 3513 votes
I've already found alternative ways of powering my home/business
15% - 747 votes
Vote
Rand - Dollar
17.20
-0.1%
Rand - Pound
21.30
-0.0%
Rand - Euro
18.70
-0.0%
Rand - Aus dollar
12.22
-0.0%
Rand - Yen
0.13
-0.0%
Platinum
1,012.08
0.0%
Palladium
1,618.86
0.0%
Gold
1,928.39
0.0%
Silver
23.60
0.0%
Brent Crude
86.66
-0.9%
Top 40
74,766
+0.4%
All Share
80,791
+0.4%
Resource 10
77,871
-0.4%
Industrial 25
103,872
+0.7%
Financial 15
16,281
+0.6%
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes Iress logo
Editorial feedback and complaints

Contact the public editor with feedback for our journalists, complaints, queries or suggestions about articles on News24.

LEARN MORE