The right to be forgotten…

The right to be forgotten…

This week many companies are working to finalize everything in order to apply to the EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as this set of EU laws come into effect on May 25th. Having the GDPR in place makes it easier for EU citizens to understand how companies are using personal data. One of the articles is focused on the right to erasure, also called the right to be forgotten. But: Is it possible to be forgotten? Do you want to be forgotten? and How will it feel to be forgotten?

To answer the first question: yes, it is possible to be forgotten. Imagine you are going out with a group of friends to a club and all of a sudden, you’re looking around you and you don’t see any of your friends anymore. Imagine you’re travelling with your classmates by train, it’s your stop, but all of a sudden you are not on time to get out so leaving behind. Imagine you hear in your sports-club that everybody got an invite for a party, but apparently you didn’t because they forgot you. How does it feel when everybody goes out for a walk during lunch, but they forgot you to ask if you’ll join? Or what if you have an appointment and the other one doesn’t show up?

How does it feel, the feeling of being forgotten? From my own experience, it feels lonely, as if you are nobody, as if you are not important. You are screaming inside ‘wait for me!’ or ‘please don’t show others how I feel now’. But vice versa, how will it feel for the person who forgot you? Also, from my own experience, it feels embarrassing and awkward. And the closer the relationship you have with the person you’ve forgotten, the more you feel ashamed. There seem to be no good feelings at all when you are being forgotten in these instances for both the one who forgot and the one who was forgotten.

So, if being forgotten results in such negative emotions, why does it happen? It could be because we’re not fully paying attention, we’ve got distracted when performing certain tasks or we just don’t care about the other.

Avishai Margalit, an Israeli Professor Emeritus in philosophy, wrote the book ‘The Ethics of Memory’ that is about the question if we have obligations to remember people. He says that if you are involved in close relationships with friends, family, a community or your partner there is actually a memory obligation.

Back to the GDPR it’s great to see I can be forgotten by companies to avoid spam and all kinds of advertisement e-mails. But in real life, it would be really hard for me if people start to forget me or when I start forgetting people. I might feel relieved to be alone for some time, but at the end, I am a human being, a social animal by nature. So, we have to accept that things like being forgotten do happen. In that circumstance just think that it wasn’t on purpose, think that it gives the same pain to the one who forgot and was forgotten and move on. Did you experience before that you’re forgotten or that you forgot somebody else? How did it feel? How did you react?