Some people are natural storytellers. For everyone else, there’s Histuffy.com.
The local co-founder of the social media site, Brian Liebzeit, got the idea for an online “museum of personal objects” after asking a friend a simple question: “Where’d you get that?”
For his friend, the item was too special to merely answer with a location. She had to share the special story behind how she obtained what others might see as another knickknack occupying space on a shelf in her home.
Not only did Liebzeit learn something significant about his friend, he thought of all the stories behind his own personal items and the people in his life who’ve never heard them.
And that is how the seed for Histuffy was planted.
The website and app enables users, who can log in via email or Facebook, to post photos of objects and detail the special stories behind them. They can also add more pictures to provide context, such as bridal photos to accompany a wedding ring. Users then invite friends to view what is called their personal museum, a collection of their own exhibits.
It’s a system, as Liebzeit discovered with his friend, that garners far more information about a person than anything that ever followed the old “Tell me about yourself” request.
Can people do a version of this on Facebook? Sure, if they don’t mind their significant memories getting lost amidst a sea of F-bomb memes, sexy selfies and status updates about the long wait at a doctor’s office.
“On social media people focus on entertainment and posturing,” Liebzeit says. “We’re missing the stories behind the pictures. What does a picture of me snowboarding tell people? If something unique happened that day, where is that story?”
Probably in fond memories and nowhere else, says co-founder and Brian’s brother Ethan Liebzeit.
“This is the stuff that doesn’t come up in everyday conversation,” Ethan says. “When you get together with your family and friends, you’re basically just catching up.”
One significant attribute of Histuffy is that commenting is invitation-only. There’s something to be said about a social media site that prevents Steve from accounting from interrupting a family-only conversation. The selectivity allows only those relevant to the object, memory or “author” as users are called, to chime in.
For now there are close to 100 users, mostly Brian and Ethan’s friends and family. The brothers and business partners quickly discovered on their own the benefits of the site when their father joined.
He posted a photo of an old flannel shirt. As he explains on his exhibit, he wore that shirt the day Brian was born and again when Ethan came around. Ever since, it’s been his lucky shirt.
Neither of his sons knew a thing about it before Histuffy.
“It’s not necessarily about the object,” says Brian. “What’s important is the meaning.”
That’s exactly why sharing it, for some, won’t be easy. The essence of the site calls for openness. In an age when people have their IRL — in real life — selves and online selves, that can prove challenging.
Acknowledging this, Brian suspects there will be a learning curve with new users, who have trouble even believing people want to hear their stories.
“They have to understand that friends and family are interested in this stuff,” he says. “They don’t care about the picture of you snowboarding in Vail. They want the story behind it.”
There’s also the time element. Users aren’t just uploading photos, they’re regaling loved ones with the significance behind them, which usually takes more than 40 characters.
But, if you find out about your dad’s lucky shirt in the process, the return becomes much greater than the investment.
Contact Xazmin Garza at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0477. Follow her on Twitter @startswithanx.