Internet, let me forget

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I, a European citizen of a comfortable life, always saw the Amish with an overwhelming moral superiority. Poor ignorant citizens, who resist the benefits of living in our time. It is already a desire to anchor oneself in the 18th century, it is already a desire to limit oneself and miss out on fun and pleasures. Almost three years ago I read in Quartz a headline even more crushing than my moral superiority: “The Amish understand a life-changing truth about technology that the rest of us don’t” (for lack of a better translation, apologies in advance).

In that article they said that the amish use the rest of humanity as an experiment to test the very long-term implications of any innovation that comes into our lives. And only if that innovation is harmless to their principles and values ​​do they end up assuming it. I still had zero desire to live the Amish life, but my moral superiority was like a house of cards after being hit by a Boeing.

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The seventh sin of memory

Indeed, I got to thinking how we had given ourselves completely to Facebook, Instagram or even the smartphone in general in a servile way, without asking questions, without questioning ourselves too much about the effects that they would bring to our lives and the changes in habits that they would bring about. Not always desirable. The fact is that at the end of that year I stopped using Instagram, I haven’t since and sometimes I think that my life would have been a little better if I had never registered there.

Cookies, anniversaries, memories… Constant exposure to a past that we don’t always want to bring back

We are in 2022 and the train of technology continues to advance, it continues to change our lives little by little, without us noticing (it is impressive how different everything is compared to 2006, for example), and in many cases without us taking a break before incorporating any flashy novelty into our lives. I thought something like that—and the fall from the horse regarding the Amish came to mind—when I read an article from wired titled ‘I canceled my wedding. The Internet will never forget.

The author, Lauren Goode, recounted how she called off her wedding a couple of years ago, and how two years later it’s still haunting her online: ephemeris from photo management apps suggesting she take a look at the photos surrounding a painful event. Emails from the bridal preparation platform where she signed up. Targeted ads on Instagram. Content proposed by an algorithm that does not forget. Facebook, Pinterest, Apple, Google. It doesn’t matter who’s behind: although the intention is different, the consequence is usually the same. memories that hurt.

Hand holding a slide against the light where the photo of a marriage from several decades ago is left.

Of course there are worse things in life, but the canceled wedding is Lauren’s excuse to talk about how our brain is designed to be able to forget, how our mind needs to forget. Now that “resilience” has been a buzzword for a few years around self-improvement circles or other types of little stamp scams, it would not be a bad thing to urge the big technology platforms precisely so that as an exercise in resilience they also let us forget, overcome the drama.

Persistence, the seventh sin of memory according to Schacter, results in post-traumatic stress and even suicide in the most extreme cases

Daniel Schacter, expert psychologist in memory and author of the book ‘The seven sins of memory’, spoke in his pages of persistence as the inability to overcome the emotional burden of a trauma, a failure of our system that forces us to periodically recall disturbing information, unwanted memories. In mild cases it involves nothing more than twisting your nose and sighing a couple of times, but in more extreme cases it can lead to post-traumatic stress and even suicide. There are those who get over a breakup in six months, there are those who do it in a year, and there are those who are never the same again. That was the seventh sin. The Leftovers It was about that too.

Lauren Goode’s article serves to reflect on how extremely easy it is to be exposed practically for life to certain images, stimuli, distressing memories without the possibility of canceling it. The Amish miss out on a lot of good things, but they also miss out on the perennial memory of the Internet. The right to be forgotten only covers part of the story.

Stephen Hackett, podcaster and technology writer, wrote another text following Goode’s quite devastating. In his case, the memories that haunted him were the photos of his son shortly before being diagnosed with a brain tumor, when he tended to turn his head excessively to one side and he failed to see that this could be a symptom that would end up sending him to an MRI. That was when she was six months old. Today he is twelve years old and he got over that, but the memories of that time hit Stephen every time he sees them for reminding him that he didn’t know how to catch those signs that something was wrong in his son’s head:

“When the Photos app makes a memory out of one of those pre-diagnostic photos, it hits me like a train. I feel guilty and ashamed that we didn’t see things sooner.”

And that his son survived. At the end of 2019, she had to attend therapy to overcome those traumatic memories. Schacter’s persistence.

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Too fast

I have never had an event similar to Goode or Hackett, facing such a painful memory over and over again, luckily, but I cannot assure you (no one can) that I will not have it in the future. The worst thing that happens to us in life is not foreseen, it does not happen on days indicated on the calendar, but on any given day, crossing the sidewalk clueless just before realizing that that car will no longer be able to avoid us, or answering a phone call while we have dinner and feeling that we are not prepared to accept the news that they are about to give us. That moment when everything stops and our life is never the same. All that remains is for that moment to haunt us forever. And that’s where we are. exposed.

The 21st century has brought us everything, even the most important vaccine of our lives in record time, but also a speed of innovation and rotation impossible to manage, impossible to process, impossible to calculate long-term risks. This is your new trendy social network, start uploading videos or go to the corner of the marginalized. Upload your content here and we’ll take care of reminding you of it in a few years to soothe your soul and monetize your nostalgia.

Indeed, Lauren, I also want the Internet to make it a little easier for us to forget, and not just to be forgotten, which is not so feasible either. The most savvy will say that there is no better way to overcome the drama than facing it and coming out victorious. They don’t really want to see it first hand when a tragedy touches them closely. It is paradoxical to say this in Xatakabut as the endearing Brooks Hatlen wrote in ‘Life imprisonment‘ just before he goes to the gallows, “this damn world is going too fast.”

I, a European citizen of a comfortable life, always saw the Amish with an overwhelming moral superiority. Poor ignorant citizens,…

I, a European citizen of a comfortable life, always saw the Amish with an overwhelming moral superiority. Poor ignorant citizens,…

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