What It Means to Forget on Facebook

I'll do some digging and report back on that question.

In the meantime, I also wonder how much features like Facebook's Timeline are something we should actually worry about versus just something whose novelty we should acknowledge makes us feel "quite uneasy." After all, it's ok to be uneasy about new things, especially when their potential consequences are tough to evaluate.

I think Maura is right to point out that the "fuzziness" of memory "can have helpful functions at time." That gets right back at this recurring theme that memory is actually a highly selective process (as opposed to accretive) and -- with the exception of some relatively minor social fumbles that occur when your memory decides to filter out someone's name, birthday, etc., -- that's a good thing. Facebook wasn't around when I was in middle school but if it was, man oh man, would I desperately want Facebook to do me the mercy of letting me forget it.

But that desire right there is what I think is most interesting about Maura's post and about this whole Facebook timeline concept. I have a much younger sister, we're talking almost nine years here, and Facebook was around when she was in middle school, which was less than two years ago. So, not only is the question: how does a hyper-salient past affect my cohort's development, if we can recall a time when the past, our previous selves, weren't so hyper-salient? But also: how does a hyper-salient past affect my sister's cohort, who probably won't remember a time in which there was no public record of every sort of person you've ever been?

To give a blunt example, if you used to be fat before the advent of Facebook (B.F.) but now you're thin and you don't want anyone to see that you were ever fat, no one has to. But if you used to be fat after the advent of Facebook (A.F.*), there's a pretty public record that, at the very least, your immediate friends can always unkindly remind you of. How does that affect say, self esteem, in the two different cohorts I outlined? Or as Maura mentioned, how might that affect habit patterns?

For me, and everyone older than me, maybe that makes for a few nasty situations. Of course that could happen any time someone or something from the past ruffles up some conveniently forgotten memories because they knew you in a so-called past life. But what if everyone younger than me habituates to the constant availability of a partially-public development timeline and instead of CHANGING EVERYTHING, it barely changes anything?

And once we get used to how Facebook helps us remember, what if one day our timeline gets lost. What will we be worried about then?

*heh - lame, I know.

Photo Credit: olga.palma via Wikimedia Commons