Why Do You “Vaguely Remember” Things You Saw On Facebook?

I’ve had a social interaction repeat itself over the past few days that went like this:

When speaking with a friend, someone I know but haven’t seen recently, I was asked to fill in details regarding something I had posted on Facebook. She said she’d “vaguely remembered” seeing something about the subject at hand on Facebook. The way the question was phrased stuck out to me, so before answering I gently asked a few questions to see how much she’d learned from the post. It became clear that she had what I’d consider a firm grasp on the content. Far from a vague remembrance, this was a clear view.

I forgot about this and then almost the same situation played out again with a different friend asking about a different particular. Then something really surprising happened: I caught myself doing it.

In a third conversation I asked a question about a trivial matter I’d seen alluded to on Facebook. In truth I remembered the minute details of this matter as it had been posted and subsequently discussed by our mutual friends. I lurked in the thread with interest and could probably recreate the argument extemporaneously. But I represented myself as having only glancingly noticed the headline in face to face conversation. I had internalized a social rule: Remembering everything you see online is not polite. Some thoughts on why this happens:

  • To avoid looking like a stalker.
  • To avoid ‘caring’ openly about social media, which is apparently still not fashionable.
  • To avoid looking tech savvy and therefore geeky.
  • To avoid ‘caring’ openly about your friends’ lives, which is also apparently not fashionable.

I don’t know why it is impolite to seem to have complete knowledge of social trivialities, but it occurred to me that, as information retrieval gets ever more quick and embedded, it will be challenging to keep up this charade of ignorance when both participants know your in-ear AI is whispering facts as you deny it.

2 thoughts on “Why Do You “Vaguely Remember” Things You Saw On Facebook?

  1. I was just re-reading this and it occurred to me to emphasize that I had *lurked* in the thread in question but not commented on Facebook — so even more specifically it felt weird to admit to ~lurking in a thread without participating~. If I had commented in the thread, I would have been ‘outed’ as interested and (I imagine) would have taken pains to appear as if I had read and understood.

  2. I think part of it might be just that basic human need for conversation. You might know all about someone’s new job because he’s posted about it on facebook, but that’s not the same as him getting to tell you about his new job himself. The facts may all be the same, but it’s personal and social in a way that reading a comment on facebook just isn’t.

    In an evolutionary sense, conversation is what we’ve used to replace social grooming in other primates. It’s how you solidify friendships and alliances within you social group. I don’t think that aspect of conversation is entirely replaceable by facebook posts.