July 21, 2011

USA: Proust social network helps you tell your life's story

NEW YORK, NY / New York Press / Technology / Business / Media / July 20, 2011

Facebook for Elderly
Posted by John Blahnik

We watched her battle with dementia, and there was this process of seeing memories go by the wayside, and it was like, god damn it, there were so many stories I wish I knew about her life.” That’s Tom Cortese explaining to Fast Company the geneses of Proust.com. Launched yesterday the lit-referencing social network hopes to link two traditionally inimical groups: the elderly and technology. A certain success, right?

It could be. Its format is unusually user friendly. Instead of asking users to create a profile, Proust prompts them with questions. When was their first kiss? What was their favorite high school class? Would they like to upload any birthday pictures? The goal is to create a virtual autobiography that will serve as a prosthetic memory and also as something else: an actual dialogue that transcends Facebook and Twitter’s meaningless noise. So how’s it doing?

Well, not great with the elderly. Click on high school graduation dates and you’ll see few years older than 1990. But at least it gets real answers, right? Ready for extended essays on rueful rumination I clicked on “Describe something you learned the hard way.” “Keith Voss: Money can’t buy you love.” “Anita Bourne: See previous work before employing a tradesman.” “Alicia Anderson: Bulimia ruins your teeth!” Has emotion ever felt so trivial? And then I remembered virtual condolences on a deceased’s Facebook wall. This was nothing new.

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