This column will change your life: the art of forgetting

From «The Guardian»

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The good news, as reported in Scientific American Mind, is that you can. Attempting not to think about something can notoriously have the opposite effect – the «don’t think of a white bear!» problem – but research showssuppression gets better with practice and substituting a thought with another thought can work well, too. Intriguingly, those who are best at deliberate forgetting are those who are also best at remembering things. (People with ADHD are worse at it.) A sharp and healthy mind is one that can remember and forget. Distracting yourself is another technique that gets a bad rap but that can be similarly effective: in one study, having to press a button each time a word-cue appeared led to as much forgetting as deliberately trying to block it. «Action interferes with recollection,» as one researcher put it. Want to forget your screw-up at work today? Cook a complex dinner tonight.

As a society, argues internet scholar Viktor Mayer-Schonberger, we’re getting worse at forgetting, thanks to the web: Amazon, Google and Facebook remember everything you use them for, for ever. In his book Delete, he calls for legal efforts to change the default, so that unless you choose otherwise, your online activities will eventually slip into the memory hole. It’ll never happen. But it’s a welcome intervention in the polarised debate between advocates of privacy and publicness. Perhaps «living in public» in the digital era would be less unsettling if we could trust that the web – like an optimally functioning human mind, rather than one with a disorder such as Price’s – might eventually also forget.

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http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2012/jan/20/change-life-art-of-forgetting