Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

After the breakup in a digital world: Purging Facebook of painful memories

Date:
May 9, 2013
Source:
University of California - Santa Cruz
Summary:
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 Flickr?

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.

Pervasive collections

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 to forget but are "extremely resistant to actual deletion," Whittaker and Sas found, most often the "dumpees." Others later regret disposing of everything.

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."

'Pandora's Box'

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 be retained for later happy memories.

Whittaker joined UCSC in 2011. He was previously a professor in information retrieval at the information studies department at the University of Sheffield. He has also been a research scientist at HP Labs, Lotus, AT&T Labs, and IBM. His research was supported by a grant from Google.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of California - Santa Cruz. The original article was written by Guy Lasnier. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

University of California - Santa Cruz. "After the breakup in a digital world: Purging Facebook of painful memories." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 9 May 2013. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509154550.htm>.
University of California - Santa Cruz. (2013, May 9). After the breakup in a digital world: Purging Facebook of painful memories. ScienceDaily. Retrieved September 21, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509154550.htm
University of California - Santa Cruz. "After the breakup in a digital world: Purging Facebook of painful memories." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/05/130509154550.htm (accessed September 21, 2014).

Share This



More Science & Society News

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Will Climate Rallies Spur Change?

Newsy (Sep. 21, 2014) Organizers of the People's Climate March and other rallies taking place in 166 countries hope to move U.N. officials to action ahead of their summit. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

Thousands March in NYC Over Climate Change

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Accompanied by drumbeats, wearing costumes and carrying signs, thousands of demonstrators filled the streets of Manhattan and other cities around the world on Sunday to urge policy makers to take action on climate change. (Sept. 21) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

Sierra Leone in Lockdown to Control Ebola

AP (Sep. 21, 2014) Sierra Leone residents remained in lockdown on Saturday as part of a massive effort to confine millions of people to their homes in a bid to stem the biggest Ebola outbreak in history. (Sept. 20) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

Climate Change Rally Held in India Ahead of UN Summit

AFP (Sep. 20, 2014) Some 125 world leaders are expected to commit to action on climate change at a UN summit Tuesday called to inject momentum in struggling efforts to tackle global warming. Duration: 00:41 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins