Life can take many twisted turns and circuitous routes over the course of time: overlapping experiences and related situations that may only make sense in their labyrinthine connectedness. There are countless authors who have written memoirs that string together the associations of time, place, and people. But in the age of social media, has the act of writing the memoir extended itself well beyond a literary intent?
Most of those who document their daily existence via the various channels of social media, would never presume they are writing an autobiography. Heaven forbid, what a conceit! But in fact they are, whether they accept this grandiose notion or not. I am calling this new phenomenon the “social memoir,” an idea I have been comtemplating as I write these posts: my own ever-expanding autobiographical document of the artistic process. And most certainly, on a larger scale, the process of living.
So we have to ask: what is a social memoir in relation to the bounded kind? Simple: the new autobiography takes place on the network, the third space of social relations, where the status update, Tweet, or blog post is published, distributed and archived instantaneously.
I still haven’t answered the question of whether or not this act of networked personal sharing even constitutes an autobiographical act. Well, here is the definition of autobiography from Wikipedia:
“A written account of the life of a person written by that person.”
And here is the definition of memoir:
A collection of memories that an individual writes about moments or events, both public or private that took place in the subject’s life.
If you scroll through Facebook or Twitter, you will in fact find that the majority of interactions are exactly that: descriptions of food eaten, places visited, awards won, books read, relationships consecrated, pets lost, and on and on and on: a personal chronicle of the most mundane details of one’s life. So in fact I would say we have all become (most of us) documentarians of our everyday lives, tales of existence and social relations interwoven into the collective narrative of the network. Our relentless co-participation in this shared activity on a global scale is where social media has brought us today.
Now here’s the next big question: how to read and follow and digest the near infinite trail and associations of our collective stories through the vast hyperrealm: the 21st century social memoir.