Bad? Social Media Keeps Memory of Our Cat’s Death Alive

Social media, because it is a record of what is happening in our lives can keep the memory of our cat’s death alive. This is said to be a bad thing in one way because “it has become harder to infuse the past with the rosy glow of nostalgia”.

Memories of our deceased cat

Image by Damian Gadal

Sir Nigel Shadbolt who is chairman of the Open Data Institute, London, says that the data on social media websites that document our lives means that the past no longer fades into soft focus as it did in the past. He is referring to the death of friends and partners but I would suggest that the same could be said about loved animal companions. He suggests that “personas linger”. It needn’t be about death, the same argument could concern the break up of a relationship, for example.

Keeping alive the death of a loved cat could be psychologically distressing. The passing of one’s cat is a tough moment. The new “cyberculture” makes it more difficult to grieve and let go, it is claimed.

It is as if our memories are posted online in hard data. I have certainly seen pictures and words of deceased cats on social media. I have posted memorials myself and it felt right and good to do it. Marc posted a beautiful memorial to Red on PoC. It was a fine thing to do and a beautiful article. There are, actually, very few “in memory” articles on PoC. I wanted more but have my doubts now.

The idea that internet social media might have an unforeseen downside is a new concept.  I see the argument. The more natural state of affairs is to remember things in the brain. That is what we are meant to do. We retain some memories in images. They are usual the best, most memorable moments, hence the rosy glow of the faded memory of a loved one.

I wonder, though, if Sir Nigel Shadbolt is correct. The point about social media is that it is very immediate and transient. Stuff that was posted a week ago is ancient history. It is forgotten. That is a point that Sir Nigel appears to have overlooked.

Secondly, people keep pictures of their deceased cats and loved humans in their albums and living rooms. This has been happening well before the invention of internet social media.

Note: Quotes from Times newspaper article by Hannah Devlin, science editor.

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Comments

Bad? Social Media Keeps Memory of Our Cat’s Death Alive — 12 Comments

  1. Mr. Shadbolt is certainly a brilliant and accomplised man. Even I have heard of him.
    However, I disagree with his THEORY. In simple terms, my understanding of what he is saying, is that unhappy or maybe even traumatic times in our lives that we choose to “store” on social media sites could be harmful to us; that we are, in essence, keeping our pasts alive and we could experience distress.

    I, personally, theorize that such activity could be helpful and comforting.. I don’t believe that emotionally healthy people who revisit their past through writings or photos are stuck in the past or return to their previous mourning status. Mourning is a process and can take a long time, but I have never heard of a person “moving backwards” ln the process regardless of how often they revisit the event.

    I sometimes read some of my writings (journal) or look at old photos over and over. I remember the joys and sorrows both. I have never reverted to where I was.

    • My late husband’s mother reverts back to where she was in grief. When Danny died she completely relived and went through the entire mourning process for Danny’s father at the same time. She had Danny’s father’s photo atop Danny’s casket along with Danny’s picture. It was ten times more traumatic for her losing her son because she completely went back and relived her husband’s death (several years ago) at the same time. I can’t recall if she relived other griefs when her second husband passed, but I’m thinking that she did, because Jeff said something about it at the time, I think. Some people really do relive and go through that grief process over and over. It’s almost as if they feel guilty to stop grieving, as if then they wouldn’t really have loved the person. She says that if we stop talking about the person entirely then it is as if they never lived. I can agree with that. But talking about memories and reliving old pain are two different things. I wish she wouldn’t torture herself like that.

      • Its sad to say however I have noticed that sometimes people relish previous agonies and periods of grief 🙁 I don’t know why maybe they feel guilty (and lets face it there aren’t many of us who don’t blame ourselves when someone dies) and are punishing themselves 🙁 I’m not saying this is the case with your family but its just an observation I’ve noticed with others.

  2. I think all of our cats are remembered here in articles on PoC and I like it that we can share their birthdays and anniversaries with our PoC family because we all care about each others cats here and grieve with and try to comfort each other when one of us loses one.

    • I think and hope we strike a nice balance on PoC. We remember with fondness, respect and tenderness but we don’t go over the events. There should be just nice memories.

      • I think photos are memorials really remind, and bring back memories otherwise forgotten – but I don’t think those mess up the ones that you remember anyway in your brain without photos and reminders. What I wish I had more of is photos of me and my cats together. But I am so glad for all the pics I have of my cats – of Red. It doesn’t pollute a would be rosy memory of him although I understand the logic.

        • Nice point. Photos just remind us, jog the memory. I guess that social media can over-discuss this subjects thereby keeping them alive and fresh. That seems to be the point.

  3. When my friend Ingrid died many of her friends kept her on their friends list on Facebook. Her account is still there– unless you know her password there is no way to deactivate it. I unfriended her. Because Ingrid is gone. She isn’t going to see my posts or respond. She’s gone. So I took her off my friends list. I’ll see her in heaven. I don’t need to keep seeing her face on Facebook. I can’t grieve that way. I can’t come to terms with her being gone if it seems like she’s still alive.

  4. I take a lot more pictures now than before the advent of digital photography and then cameras right in cell phones. When I look back over the pictures I notice how young I really was, when I thought I was getting old, and I realize just how many years have passed. Sure, I know time is passing, but looking through all those photos really brings it home. Sometimes I feel bad after I look through all the photos on my computer because I notice I was thinner (even when I thought I was really heavy) and my hair looked so great back then. It was thick and no gray hairs and shiny and now it’s getting more and more gray and it’s thinning and though it’s still long for someone in her forties, it’s really short compared to what it was in my twenties. I don’t think I would really notice these small changes that come with age so much if I didn’t have so many photos to look at and realize that I’ve really become an old bag compared to how I used to look. And just the sheer number of pictures also brings home just how long I’ve lived, that sometimes it just seems like it’s been too long already. I only feel like that when I look at old photos on the computer. Someday when Monty is gone I suppose it will be like that– so hard to look at all the pictures I have of him and all the little movies and he won’t be here anymore. Technology is good, but in some ways it introduces problems that weren’t there when we didn’t have it. We relied on memory and that softened the blow of so many losses– the loss of youth, of family members and friends, of pets.

    On a side note, my late husband gave me a photograph of him, before we were married, which he had had taken at church to go in the church directory. I just didn’t like that picture. It struck me that some day all I would have of him would be that photo and I stuck it in a desk drawer. That’s so weird– why would a young bride to be not want to look at a photo of her beloved? But I didn’t want to. I thought I would save that for the time that his photo would be all I had to remember him by. It’s like I knew even then. A little more than two years later he was dead and that photo was placed atop his casket.

    • Another good point Ruth. Digital photography has transformed photography as a record keeper of our lives and mobile photos which always have cameras means billions more photos are taken than in the old days. It is like everything we do is shared. The memory is used much less.

      My relationship with my first cat that I dearly loved is “old style”. Just a few hard copy photos and bright memories to this day almost 20 years after she died.

      You relationship with your late husband is also old style in terms of use of memory. I think it is better. Although there are advantages to the relative ease nowadays of taking photos.

  5. I have no problem with someone who wants to remember their loved ones in any way or as many times as they choose; everyone deals with grief and the loss of loved ones in different ways however I prefer to give the majority of my time, love and focus on the family and friends that are in my life now especially my cats.
    Having said all this I’m not saying I have forgotten all about the family I’ve loved and lost I just prefer to remember them in a more organic way for example a smell may remind me or something someone says…..a photo perhaps or seeing an old friend maybe a song. Sometimes for no reason at all I remember my old cat Benji who was my dear friend for 17 years. Sadly his death was very traumatic for him and for me and I tend to find that this is what I remember not the good times …… So I just prefer to look at his photo occassionally and say ‘Hello Benji hope you’re somewhere nice and you’re happy….mom still loves you….

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