The era is long gone when a romantic breakup meant ripped-up photos and burned love letters. Today, digital photos and emails can be quickly deleted but the proliferation of social media has made forgetting a bigger chore.
What about the ubiquitous digital records of a once beloved that lurk on Facebook, tumblr, and flicker?
"People are keeping huge collections of digital possessions," says Steve Whittaker, a psychology professor at UC Santa Cruz who specializes in human-computer interaction. "There has been little exploration of the negative role of digital possessions when people want to forget aspects of their lives."
In a paper, "Design for Forgetting: Disposing of Digital Possessions after a Breakup," Whittaker and co-author Corina Sas, of Lancaster University, examine the challenges of digital possessions and their disposal after a romantic breakup. Sas worked on the research as a visiting professor at UCSC.
Digital possessions include photos, messages, music, and video stored across multiple devices such as computers, tablets, phones, and cameras. Their pervasiveness "creates problems during a breakup, as people 'inhabit' their digital space where photos and music constantly remind them about their prior relationship."
In interviews with 24 young people between the ages of 19 and 34, Whittaker and Sas found that digital possessions after a breakup are often evocative and upsetting, leading to distinct disposal strategies. Twelve of the subjects were deleters; eight were keepers, and four others were selective disposers.
They presented their findings last week in Paris at the Association for Computing Machinery Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, the premier international conference on human-computer interaction, with more than 3,300 attendees. The paper will be published in the conference proceedings.
Some of the heartbroken may want t
|Contact: Guy Lasnier|
University of California - Santa Cruz