Russell Davies: How social media is becoming better at managing your time
A view from Russell Davies

Russell Davies: How social media is becoming better at managing your time

A year ago today, I was at a trade fair for robots in Lille.

I arrived in the morning by train, had an interesting day at the trade fair, made a video for a friend and had a frustrating evening in the hotel trying to steer clear of the fancy room service and just get myself a tube of Pringles.

I remember very little of this. I certainly hadn't remembered that it was a year ago this weekend, but I know all this because I got an e-mail from a company called Timehop. It sends me an e-mail every morning looking back at my activity from a year ago on Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare and Instagram and summarising it for me.

It is, like most social media, despicably self-involved and deeply fascinating. We seem drawn to the artificial significance of anniversaries, and tiny personal anniversaries seem to have a similar appeal.

Digging into another service, called Memolane, I have learnt that three years ago, I took some pictures of barges; five years ago, I seemed to spend the day listening to D Train and the London Sinfonietta (I'm quite pleased with the pretentiousness of that); and four years ago, I was Tweeting about being at a gaming event at the University of Derby.

I get similar nudges from my favourite social media time machine - Twitshift. This resends me my Tweets from one, two, three or four years ago. Again, I know that it sounds stupid, but it has the same appeal as those driving video games where you see a ghostly version of your own best lap racing alongside you - you're able to compare yourself with your past life. It's not a big thing, but it's an interesting new sensation.

All of which is evidence that internet services are waking up to a new dimension - time. To date they've been, mostly, about "now", about the new, the novel and what's happening in the immediate present. But add all those "nows" together and you start to get an archive.

All these ephemeral moments are being preserved, and investors are realising that these archives have enormous value. That's why Twitter's legendarily unaccessible history is so debated. Have they really lost all those Tweets? When will we get access to our histories? Are they aggregating and selling our pasts?

It's also a useful warning for all those businesses and brands looking to communicate and provide services on the web. You, too, are assembling a history - a searchable, analysable history. What might that mean for brand consistency and for creating sustained, long-term relationships with people?

And now I'm going to Tweet about that to remind myself to think about it in a couple of years.