Posting on social media contributes to memory retention

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Posting memories on social media help people remember them, even if the events are less significant than others, researchers at Cornell University have found. Qi Wang, a professor in Cornell’s School of Human Ecology, led the research.

Wang instructed participants to keep a diary to record everything that happened to them during the day, whether they had posted about them online and how important the events were to them. A surprise memory test after one week revealed that participants were more likely to remember the events they posted on social media, even if they were less important than other events.

Wang says sharing events with others is the essential part of memory, and her research shows that sharing it on social media is similarly effective to sharing it on a person-to-person basis.

“The way we remember our experiences online is very much consistent with general memory research,” Wang said. “Sharing memories is the facilitative factor for our remembrance of those experiences.”

Brittany Mechler, an Ithaca College sophomore, said she posts two to three times a day, with Instagram as her primary outlet.

“Especially with stuff like Timehop, to go back and say, ‘Oh, I posted this a year ago, you know, it’s somebody’s birthday I have to post,” she said.

Wang said social media have changed the way we can share experiences with others.

“It is a very unique outlet in our internet time to allow us to share memories with people who are far away from us,” she said.

Devin McQuillan, another Ithaca College sophomore, said posting on social media helps her remember events.

“If I forget what I was doing last week or something, I kind of go back to my snapchat memories,” she said. “Then I’ll remember through the pictures what I was doing this day, so it definitely helps.”

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