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”.
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.