Psychology Research Idea: Has it become harder to forget people?

by phil on Wednesday Dec 3, 2008 3:06 AM

While it already seems that the incidence of stalking has increased because of the Internet [citation needed], I wonder if there are other implications to that. In particular, has the Internet made it harder to forget about past relationships? I've noticed a lot of people writing into Ask.MetaFilter with problems overcoming break-ups, and all too often included in their questions are "and I keep looking at his profile" or "I just Google her name, and there she is." The common response back is "out of sight, out of mind."

The Internet has really changed social presence. Evidence is in the suicides that occur because of hurtful comments people have made online. Because of the freedoms of the Internet, getting trashed-talked is about as easy as someone scribbling your name and number on a bathroom wall. Unfortunately, it's not as meaningless as graffiti, and often we are seeing trouble in the virtual world bleed into the real world (see, for example, the human flesh search engine). At the same, we can temper those fears with the idea that there may be an upper-bound to the amount of transferring of consequences between the virtual and real world. For example, people have been murdering each other over stealing virtual items for years, but the incidence seems rare.


Strange Loops said on December 6, 2008 12:48 AM:

Your explanation makes some a priori sense. Thinking about something like Facebook: it's not just that you have the option to look at their profile any time you have a moment of weakness (come on, people have always had the option to pull out that old picture...).

But consider how overlapping your social circles are, and even if you stop interacting with or watching someone, it's hard not to run into them on someone else's Facebook wall or myspace page or whatever.

That's not unique to the net, but in real life people plan further ahead on who will be at what event ("Oh, Susie is coming? We probably shouldn't invite Dave tonight..."), so there's less accidental overlap. A Facebook wall (and broadcasted updates) don't discriminate information well, and you're going to keep running into relevant info no matter what simply because of the common social circle and the huge info-dump about that entire circle that's constantly going on.

Philip Dhingra said on December 6, 2008 2:22 AM:

I also find the phenomenon of deleting your myspace and then coming back kind of interesting.

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