Ever seen graphic artist Nick Feltron’s annual reports? They are a visual representation of a year in his life based on data he manually collects, and they’re beautiful. Now you can get a comparable version of this with Expereal, the iOS app which turns your days into beautiful charts and visualizations.
The app launched its second version this week, with improved photo and email functionality.
Expereal separates out the least-utilized part of social media apps. Here’s what I mean by that: I see most social apps as having three main functionalities. The first is to communicate via one-on-one messages. The second, if we’re being truly honest with ourselves, is to broadcast bragging. Admit it: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Foursquare, Tumblr, and Pinterest are really, deep-down, a way to show off the cool things we’re doing, or reading, or curating, or eating, or wanting to buy. In exchange for that we get validation in the form of tiny hearts, stars, and Likes. Modern living.
The third function is the least developed, and to me, the most interesting. It’s telling us something about ourselves– our real selves. Not the posed picture or the humble brag. As Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”
Thanks to the ridiculous volume of data exhaust my social media activity throws off, I no longer need to fill out a five year diary to keep track of what I do each day. For that I have Timehop, which delivers the only email I consistently open every single day. (Now I can brag online about what I’m doing right now and I did one year ago today.) Timehop pulls in last year’s updates from Facebook, Foursquare, and Twitter. It’s half the reason I even check-in on Foursquare any more.
Similarly, why would I bother keeping track of how far and fast I run each week when I have RunKeeper? And why would I keep a sleep diary to track my REM hours if I have Lark? And why would I keep a food diary to keep track of my diet when I have Eatery?
However, all of this automatically generated data doesn’t add up to a complete picture. It doesn’t tell me how I felt at any particular time, or what kind of day I was having. That’s what Expereal tries to capture, with the understanding that this data can’t be automatically generated. You have to enter it in yourself. Through two little push notifications each day, Expereal asks you to reflect.
You capture a moment. You rate it 1-10. You add a location, an image, a tag, who you’re with. The moment gets added to a chart, and you’re off to visualizing your life. It’s a little laborious, but the result, presumably, is worth it. You’re not checking in to brag to your friends, you’re logging a moment that represents a feeling. I wish that feeling could be expressed in more ways than just 1-10, but the attached visualization (small grey paint blot, to big red blossoming paint blob) does seem to convey feeling.
Expereal is bootstrapped by Jonathan Cohen, who created it to help people better understand their lives. He was inspired by the book “Thinking, Fast and Slow” and related TED Talk from psychologist Daniel Kahneman, who argues that we have a cognitive bias recalling past events. The idea is that we tend to remember how events ended, not how we actually experienced them. The bias impacts our recollections of past relationships, jobs, education, and past presidencies. In a small, purposeful, private way, Expereal attempts to capture how we’re really feeling — regardless of what our bragging Facebook status update says.