Lonely Planet Writer

Scientific study says social media helps create longer lasting memories

There is no shortage of traditionalists who will tell you to put away your phone, and switch off from social media, when you are on holidays.

Apps can help to enhance your trip
Some travellers find apps can help to enhance your trip. Image by Shutterstock

Now, scientists have given the best excuse ever for travellers to stay connected to their social networks when abroad saying it will help create much longer lasting memories. A study of social media use and memory – the first of its kind – showed that posting personal experiences on the likes of Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram makes those events much easier to recall in future. They said that posts, tweets and updates seemed to mimic the effects of keeping a written diary or sharing our experiences in conversation.

Qi Wang, who was lead author of the study, said: “if people want to remember personal experiences, the best way is to put them online. We create a sense of self in the process of recalling, evaluating and sharing with others memories of personal experiences in our lives … that’s happening when we use social media, without us even noticing it.” The study from Cornell University also said interactive features on some social media networks also helped people build strong memories. A feature like Facebook’s reminders or anniversaries of past events gave people an easy way of revisiting past experiences, be it a weekend away, the trip of a lifetime, or big family events.

As part of the study, the researchers asked more than sixty students to keep diaries over the course of several weeks. They were asked to briefly describe the events of the day (excluding mundane things like having breakfast) and whether they mentioned it on social media. The research found that material that was posted online was significantly more likely to be recalled in lasting detail when they were asked about it in surprise quizzes.