why-social-networks-like-facebook-failIt’s the summer of 2005. My friend and I are lounging at a public pool during one of those sweltering July afternoons. Before we immerse ourselves in the water, feeling the coolness of chlorine on our skin, we decide to dedicate a decent amount of time to snapping photos of each other for MySpace.

We were 15. This was the first major social networking site within our reach, and we were hooked. We were able to customize our pages with specific backgrounds and layouts and music. I can recall my profile picture: a photograph of me smiling in the backyard on the morning of my family’s July 4th barbecue. The song on my page was poppy and sentimental — Howie Day’s “Collide.”

Social media outlets can serve as a portal to our past. Through our old Facebook or MySpace accounts (or others), we have access to our former selves. What were our interests circa 2007? Who were the people we were messaging frequently? What were our thoughts and beliefs and worldviews? Have they changed?

When perusing our digitized information, we may be smacked with nostalgia — not for our old social media days, but for a romanticized era. Revisiting our old selves may not only help us detect inner growth, but it has the potential to elicit positive memories of a certain life chapter as well. (For me, MySpace was a reflection of my experiences in high school and early college.)

And now, in my 20s, I attempt to access my long-dormant MySpace account. The site’s layout is drastically different and it’s difficult to reconcile such change. These are what the profiles currently look like? This was my go-to activity after ninth period? Indeed.

I studied my MySpace photo vault. There’s a picture that my childhood friend took of me by the middle school field. She visited from Brooklyn, where we grew up, and we had a sleepover reunion, comprising chick flicks, late-night chats and pure silliness.

There’s a picture of me at the beach in 2006, sunburned and serene, where I sat on a blanket next to someone I loved. Old photos tend to bring you back, regardless of whether you’d like them to.

I misplaced my username and password and cannot view my personal inbox. This particular inbox contained poems and messages from my ex-boyfriend.

In this digital realm, there were notes and comments from friends. There were words that captured where we were at that point in our lives, where we were supposed to be. In a sense, these social networking accounts were online diaries.

Our former social networking accounts illustrate our past selves: what we were like; what we stood for; what we did; who we were in touch with. And for what it’s worth, these social media pages illuminate once-important periods in our lives, too.