Disposal is made more difficult today because "digital possessions are in vast collections spread across multiple devices, applications, web-services, and platforms," they write. "When the relationship is good, this promotes a rich digital life. But when it sours people have to systematically cull collections across multiple digital spaces."
Untagged but not deleted
Facebook photos can be untagged but not deleted if posted by someone else. "It's time consuming and emotionally taxing because people tend to re-engage with possessions, especially photos," they note.
Some of the initial tactics encountered: changing one's relationship status to "single," immediately unfriending or blocking ex-partner's access to ones' profile.
Whittaker and Sas propose that software solutions might help scrub cyberspace of painful memories, for instance automatic "harvesting" using facial recognition, machine learning or entity extraction. Or a holding pattern until a cooler head prevails.
"A lack of disposal tools meant most participants either kept, or disposed of everything," they said. "Keepers took longer to heal, disposers often regretted their impulsiveness."
The authors propose a "Pandora's Box" that could automatically scoop up all the digital artifacts of a relationship, put them in a single place for later strategic deleting or retention. Or a trusted friend could be put in the position as a gatekeeper.
Or there could be new tools for active selection from collections of digital possessions to create a "treasure chest" of valuable items that may retained for later happy memories.
Whittaker joined UCSC in 2011. He was previously a professor in information retrieval at the information studies d
|Contact: Guy Lasnier|
University of California - Santa Cruz