Thanks to Facebook and Instagram, our childhoods have been captured and preserved online, never to go away. But what happens when we can’t leave our most embarrassing moments behind?
Until recently, the awkward moments of growing up could be forgotten. But today we may be on the verge of losing the ability to leave our pasts behind. In The End of Forgetting, Kate Eichhorn explores what happens when images of our younger selves persist, often remaining just a click away.
For today’s teenagers, many of whom spend hours each day posting on social media platforms, efforts to move beyond moments they regret face new and seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Unlike a high school yearbook or a shoebox full of old photos, the information that accumulates on social media is here to stay. What was once fleeting is now documented and tagged, always ready to surface and interrupt our future lives. Moreover, new innovations such as automated facial recognition also mean that the reappearance of our past is increasingly out of our control.
Historically, growing up has been about moving on—achieving a safe distance from painful events that typically mark childhood and adolescence. But what happens when one remains tethered to the past? From the earliest days of the internet, critics have been concerned that it would endanger the innocence of childhood. The greater danger, Eichhorn warns, may ultimately be what happens when young adults find they are unable to distance themselves from their pasts. Rather than a childhood cut short by a premature loss of innocence, the real crisis of the digital age may be the specter of a childhood that can never be forgotten.
Well-written, well-researched, and insightful. The End of Forgetting will contribute to our growing discussion on the role and place of social media in everyday life, and the impact that new media practices have on our understanding of identity, childhood, and the process of becoming an adult.
An elegantly written book on a timely and very important topic. Eichhorn blends stories, facts, and research to portray the role digital and social media play in young people’s self-conceptions, identity development, and public image, and reveals why it is important to protect young people’s ability to forget parts of the past.
A necessary, original, and unexpected perspective on the impact of digital technologies on children today.
Growing up online, Eichhorn worries, might impede our ability to edit memories, cull what needs to be culled, and move on.
An important manual for anyone who regularly posts on social media. It outlines the dangers that platforms pose, makes a great case for more cautious posting, and advocates for increasing pressure on the tech companies that hold our data.
Eichhorn’s work needs to be included in public discourse about how we make meaning of self and others in digital spaces. We are still in the midst of making sense of the impact of social media on how we record our lives and, by so doing, how we unavoidably carry our digital history forward. The End of Forgetting reminds readers that sampling experiences and trying out different personalities, sometimes in error, is part of the human condition. The degree to which we should forgive others, or hold them responsible, remains a pressing but unacknowledged ethical concern.
- 192 pages
- 5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
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