Intel has announced “The Museum of Me”, a web app which connects to your Facebook account to create a video of a walking tour through a museum dedicated to you, displaying pictures, friends, and the things you like in a 3D virtual gallery whose white walls and minimalist decor resembles MoMA. A video of a random user’s museum is here:
The obvious critique is that this is more narcissism run amok, that the Facebook generation would love to peruse the mediated aspects of their social lives as art in a gallery. Museum of Me yet another example of how it’s all about “me.”
But I think that’s wrong. Sure, that’s what Intel is thinking will draw people in, but they are wrong. What most Facebook users under 25 implicitly understand is that what is on Facebook is largely junk; ephemeral and fleeting aspects of their lives that they won’t care to review months from now, let alone think is worthy of the exalted treatment Intel is giving them with this tool. Sure, they’ll give it a try as a fun toy, and as institutional viral advertising it may even work, but Intel doesn’t really understand the market here.
There is a yawning chasm between Generation X and the Millennials that Gen X doesn’t realize exists but which is one of the defining features of Millennials social existence. For Gen X, staring down the barrel of 40, all these tools are about looking back. For them, Facebook is about looking back, reconnecting with friends from high school or college. It’s about repairing, restoring or revisiting the past. This is also the motivation behind so much of the 80’s nostalgia in our culture. Gen X is simply returning to the detritus of it’s past in its present celebrations of the kitsch of its youth.
So for Intel’s marketing department, staffed as it almost certainly is by the Gen X set, a museum for what’s on Facebook makes sense. But for people in college and younger, it is nonsensical. Why would they want to put their lives in a museum when for them the most exciting and interesting parts have yet to happen?
But this constant desire to look back by Generation X is everywhere. To Millennials, it might even be oppressive. Endless Hollywood remakes, aging celebrities trotted out anew, etc. Their embrace of indie film and music, along with their rejection of mainstream television and Hollywood reflects this. They are trying to get out from under a past that they never lived, but that the Generation at the helm of industry and culture is neurotically revisiting.
The problem with the Museum of Me isn’t the “Me” part, it’s that they put “me” in a museum.