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your social media timeline the unstoppable intent of a freight train

Beyond The Fav, Like

For a quite a while now I've been aware that I have been mentioning Twitter (or, more specifically) observations I've tweeted as well as tweets I've faved in everyday conversations. Yet, as much as I know the essence of what I faved, I can't quote the tweet verbatim; so I try to find it only to find that I haven't really filed the tweet at all and have to rely upon the search box. If it isn't already, this will soon become a problem for you just like it's a problem for me right now.

Like, it's not enough to fave

The digital world in which we communicate isn't like the foregoing world of printed communication that digital is presently ripping to shreds. In the printed world we have bookmarks, highlighter pens, tear sheets, photocopiers, ring binders, filing cabinets and libraries for the things we like and want to flag for future recall. Yet in the digital world you only have the like button. You see, our own digital and social media timelines come at us like stream of consciousness with all the weight and unstoppable intent of a freight train. As your social media timeline pushes-through your life you can certainly flag your favourites as they roll through but, soon enough, there's something else for you to like and your favs roll away. You may know you've liked a particular tweet but how quickly can you now find it?

Favs are, like, transient

You heart a favoured tweet and, in your head, you may be thinking that, by so doing, you're making a post easy to find once again but, in reality, you're incrementally building a second linear timeline with all the weight and unstoppable intent of a freight train. This second linear timeline has no depth, no shape and no structure that's useful to you, its curator.

So, imagine that you faved a tweet such as a powerful photo, a motivation quote, a insightful statistic, a moving quote or a smutty pun because you liked it and because you felt that you might like to refer back to it at sometime in the future. It's now the future and you know you've read a tweet containing something of value that you want to share with your partner, family, friends or maybe to use in a critical presentation for work but can you find it?

Ah! Perhaps you marked it with a meaningful hashtag? (Yes, that's genuinely what hashtags are really there for!) But you're a bit #sloppy and disorganised when it comes to indexing tweets with a tag for a predetermined set of keyword concepts, right? That moment you wanted to flag and remember forever will have begun to slip away from you, gone forever and your only hope of finding it is that you can search for it.

When organisation breaks down we quickly turn to the saviour of all tools: Search.

You thought Search was all about Google and SEO?

I'm keen to underline that Search is, in itself, a primary human function. Search stretches infinitely beyond the browser, the search giant and even the Web itself; Search is the most important mechanism we have for navigating the Web and beyond. Steve Whiting - The Art of Search

This blog post started out addressing the recall of tweets but Twitter is not alone here; YouTube and Readability are both headed the same way for me - both are hatching a massive clutch of faves and, very soon, I'll be unable to explore and replay my favourites in the way I may do today.

Faves are transient; after a while they lose their meaning and I have now realised that faves do not exist for my benefit.

Look up the tracks and see what's coming

The digital stuff we like and share quickly passes-us by; our digital content rolls-on down the line and off into the distance. The photos you take get uploaded somewhere into the cloud and lie untagged but geo-located and connected only by a timeline. Eventually, this stuff will disappear and you'll not be able to retrieve it because you'll have forgotten where you put it. It's time you took control of your digital content and brought some order to it.

To misquote Humphrey Bogart:

If you don't get on this train you'll regret it. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but soon and for the rest of your life.

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