Does Social Media Contribute to False Memories?

The development of social media platforms has been incredibly positive. No longer are people limited to postcards to stay in touch. Just by accessing a mouse, anyone can communicate with friends, family, and business associates. Joining online groups to connect with people of similar interests can be done with ease. And everything can be performed in real time. Again, all these things reflect the positive nature and value of social media.

Is everything about social media positive, though? One recent study does cast a proverbial damper on the value of social media: memories might not be what they once were.

A new research study indicates people who share aspects of their life on social media contribute to their own development of false memories. That is because people frequently create a different impression of how they really feel about themselves on their social media pictures and videos. A person who feels somewhat glum may put on the appearance of being happy. Posting sad and distraught imagery on social media could create unwanted or unnecessary drama. Simply putting on a more positive — albeit false — impression would be more socially beneficial.

Problems can emerge many years later when reviewing the old pictures and videos. The original context of the imagery is lost. The replacement is the false attitude crafted for public consumption.

The study shows, as people age, their minds produce memories that complement the images placed on social media. These memories, however, are constructed long after the picture/video were taken. Again, the images were constructed to hide actual people. So, the new memories designed to fit the images simply aren’t real. In certain cases, some even develop false memories of childhood. Life revises itself in the mind to fit the picture.

Psychologists don’t see very many positives to these mental revisions. The past greatly defines a person. Changing the past could lead to unwanted consequences.

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Dil Bole Oberoi