The right to be forgotten

Unmarked grave, Ashburton

Unmarked grave, Ashburton

Listening to BBC’s Moral Maze, I’m struck by the notion of the emerging need for the right to be forgotten.

For the longest time, we had few ways of marking “I was here”. An individual could come and go in life and barely leave a trace.

Now, digital natives (and even some of  us Baby Boomers) are unlikely to go a morning without sharing views of our landscape, articulate our musings… a constant flow of mark-making. Our digital footprint tracks every step walked, every shop bought and what time we get up… never mind our own contributions to our profile and story. And we won’t be here to close down all our digital accounts when we go.

Of course, there are plenty of services on this already but it does beg a question about the right to be forgotten.

There’s nothing new in the potential of others telling your story in their own way … that’s news while we’re alive and history after we’ve gone. But because we are all our own publishers and publicists now, it’s easy for others to hijack your memory and own it, shape it, keep it alive.

Final Fling’s Life Planning Tools let people share Notices & Tributes. Notices are for sharing information about plans at the time of a death or later, to share information about a life celebration or memorial. The Tributes aspect lets you remember an anniversary or give a mention to one of your loved-and-lost who pops into your head of a day that you want to honour, share something of their spirit.

It’s a fine line all the time in the area of life and death… planning your own funeral when others have to deliver it… remembering someone in the knowledge that they might prefer to exercise the right to be forgotten. My partner doesn’t use Facebook so I try to exercise caution when I’m posting not to tell her story for her.

Part of our difficulty accepting mortality and the inevitability of death has been the human struggle with what the point of life is, whether or not a life can make a difference in the vastness of time and space,the notion of no longer existing, what it means when we die and disappear. It’ll be interesting to see how things shift and change in the coming decades with our right to be forgotten.

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