Digital Citizenship Week is just around the corner, and I’ve been thinking a lot about it.

Already connected to homes and back pockets around the globe, with the onslaught of the pandemic, the internet became an ever-more necessary presence in all our lives. Pretty much overnight, video chat rooms became how we went to work, attended weddings, checked in on loved ones, had dinner “with” friends and met the new babies in the family.

Brunswick resident Heather D. Martin wants to know what’s on your mind; email her at [email protected]

One of the forerunners in digital literacy is Common Sense Media, which offers a thorough and engaging set of lesson plans for students on many topics within the overarching theme, one of which centers on a person’s digital footprint and the reality that content posted today might well be content that follows a person for the rest of their lives.

It is good to be aware of this, and it is also sort of heartbreaking, no?

When I was a kid, the internet had yet to be a thing. I mean, it existed, but not for the average person. For me, this means all my moments of stupidity were just that – moments. Embarrassing, sure, but nothing I couldn’t eventually relegate to the realm of “lessons learned” and entertaining dinner stories. They didn’t follow me.

For example, that time when I was 12 or so and went down the road to check out a new horse barn? I had forgotten to leave a note and I wound up being hauled home by a neighbor to find an entire search party, including state troopers with dogs, out looking for me.

Had that happened today, it’s not hard to imagine short snippets of video footage being posted online with a flurry of comments weighing in on my behavior, making the incident out to be on par with that of a minor war crime and becoming part of my forever record. In reality, I was a kid being thoughtless for a moment. As kids are wont to be.

It makes me really sad that kids today don’t have the same leeway to make mistakes without it being documented and forever memorialized. For that matter, not just kids, but the rest of us, too.

Clearly, I am not alone in this regret. Over in the European Union, they have enacted the General Data Protection Regulation, otherwise known as the “right to be forgotten.” This same idea is currently being discussed within news agencies here as well.

Recently, on “On the Media,” Oxford professor Viktor Mayer-Schönberger said, “I’m not in favor of annihilating memories. I’m in favor of putting them in the shoebox and stashing them in the attic. If you really want to make the effort to go up there, you can take them down, pour yourself a glass of wine and go through them, but you don’t stumble over them every day.”

More importantly, he noted, “We don’t know how to forgive if we remember. So as we become a remembering society, we become an unforgiving society.”

I, for one, am all for granting some space for forgetting and space for forgiving.

In the meantime, as we work to pass legal erasure measures, let’s educate ourselves and our youth in the best practices and ethical use of the digital platforms we now call home, and work and school.

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