Do Our Brains Discard Social Media Content Just Like Dreams?

4 Minutes
Chris Kell

Some people remember their dreams pretty well, they perhaps gradually fade away over time but certainly at first, they can remember the situations, feelings and context of their dreams. For others, the human brain seems to erase dreams from the memory very quickly (sometimes instantly) once the ‘recipient’ awakens. The latter is my own personal experiences and it’s actually quite frustrating – some dreams are pretty cool (I think), but I wake and very quickly my mind snatches the memories away from me! Perhaps it’s an age thing; I used to be able to remember my dreams when I was younger? Now, at the ripe old age of 40, maybe my brain is so stuffed full of Digital Marketing information, Google algorithm knowledge and website code, not to mention the entire Breaking Bad and Game of Thrones plots & Characters, to leave space for any made up stories my mind chooses to play out whilst I’m asleep?

Some say that Déjà vu can be a flashback to a dream, also on occasion something happens that brings back a sudden memory of a dream, so perhaps the content is stored somewhere in the human mind. This is a bit too similar to the way computers release storage space on their hard drives for my liking (The Matrix anyone?). However, for the purpose of this blog post, we’ll leave that there. I’m sure there are plenty of research papers and commentary on dreams and the human brain if you want to get into it in more depth, it’s a fascinating subject and something we, humans, probably understand very little about in the grand scheme of things.

But the title of this article, hence the context of it, is a comparison I came up with when I was thinking about social media content. I have a rather strong disliking for Facebook, not the concept or the business model that Mark Zuckerburg (or was it the Winklevoss twins?) created, I have nothing but admiration for him / them and envy their bank accounts. What I dislike is the drivel that fills my news feed on a daily basis. I stay on Facebook primarily for business reasons but every now and then I get drawn into wasting my life reading or viewing something that’s been posted. Sure, on occasion it’s something interesting, worthy of my attention. But I reckon about 95% of it is drivel. What do I mean by drivel? Well, here’s a few examples:

  • Jane Bloggs posting that she’s all packed and ready for her holiday
  • Jane Bloggs posting an image of the bar at the airport and commenting how ‘crazy’ it is that her and Joe Bloggs are drinking pints at 5am
  • Jane Bloggs telling me the temperature in Lanzarote and posting an image of her first Mojito cocktail at the Beach bar
  • Joe Bloggs posting an image of his wife asleep on a sun lounger after too many Mojitos

The fact I hardly know Joe and Jane Bloggs compounds the frustration at my life being ebbed away reading their tedious posts about their lives. In my opinion, they’re obviously not enjoying Lanzarote and their time together too much if they have to constantly seek ‘likes’, approval and comments on Facebook. Enjoy your holiday, take a break, stop SHOWING OFF. In fact it’s that last point that’s quite crucial here. Showing off is the primary reason for much of the drivel I have to put up with. It’s something in human nature that makes many people want to tell the world how great their life is, they have a new car, they have a new house, they’ve just been to a posh restaurant (or have just arrived at one and ‘checked in’ FB style!).

Anyway, I digress slightly and to be honest, de-friending or ‘Un-following’ (a clever little ‘eradicate the drivel’ feature Facebook introduced) people is my solution. But what this all got me thinking about, and where this links with dreams, is the fact that I don’t tend to remember the content I read on social media sites. There is so much content, as discussed, most of it garbage (similar to Twitter), that perhaps my brain, being the entity that decides it’s all drivel anyway, has subconsciously decided to erase the memories?

I first thought of this when I was hovering over the ‘Post reply’ button on a comment I was making on someone’s post. It was a slightly controversial comment and I was wondering whether to post it or not (we’ve all been there, right?). Then I remembered that nobody really recalls this crap anyway, so what the hell.

So my question is, do our brains discard social media content just like dreams? I don’t know the answer for sure but in my humble opinion, yes they do. I think there is just so much content we all take in every day now, the brain chooses what to keep and what not to keep. Almost subconsciously when we take something in I think we tag it – store that one, nope, won’t be needing that again… and so on. I know I’ve read things on social media sites that have made me laugh out loud, that have made me mutter about something, that have made me angry… yet I don’t really remember them?

The only problem with all of this, is it’s my singular, very insular, opinion. Who knows, maybe I just have early stage Alzheimer’s and as the year’s go on my mind will start discarding memories I distinctly tagged as ‘store that one’. So comments are welcome, I’m genuinely interested in this – I feel like I’m bringing a bit of science into the digital marketing arena!