The right to be forgotten might sound familiar. It didn’t start with Beyoncé’s inopportune candid camera shot so famously being “pulled from the internet.” Rather, the right to be forgotten is a political stance that states that after a certain amount of time, it is an individual’s right to start anew. It stems from the idea that mistakes do not define us and that we all have the right to reinvent ourselves if we choose.
This notion is as important as ever today, with the internet being a new form of stone in which so many petty offences will be permanently set. A whole generation is growing up with access to a public forum, and while it makes for precocious and well-informed youth, it also allows them an outlet never seen before. Will Smith’s son, Jaden, for example, recently deleted his Twitter, which was a constant source of ridicule. One has to wonder though, what merit there was in making fun of a teenager who probably wasn’t old or wise enough to know deep from a puddle. But this is the condition that many Westerners are in right now. Children can so easily log onto the internet, put something forth, and be completely dressed down for their perceived stupidity when it’s in fact, just run of-the-mill juvenile ignorance showing in public.
Those of us who are a little older and spent our formative years without access to any sort of spotlight, still know the sting of being the idiot in the room, asking the stupid question. Many of us raised our hands in confidence only to be laughed out of a discussion about Shakespeare. Tons of us lobbied for the coolest most amazing pair of shoes, or that haircut we absolutely just had to have, and wound up looking ridiculous. The difference is, those of us who predate Facebook and Instagram have the luxury of shutting away those mistakes. They will be forgotten. We have the right to do that because those moments, despite being public in our communities, were private to the world.
Children these days are fast losing that luxury. Embarrassments become defining moments that can be dredged up again and again no matter how hard a person tries to overcome them. While the practicality of any legal right to forget is almost inconceivable, the philosophical and social aspect of the idea should still speak loudly to those of us who know how silly youth can be. It’s something we should fight for, to protect those who don’t yet know how damaging posting a dumb picture or a silly rant can be.
To younger people, the internet is taken for granted. It’s an extension of their social lives and nothing more. It cannot be seen that way though. It’s far too accessible to be held in such innocent regard. It’s not enough to tell a kid to be careful anymore. We need to fight for, at the very least, a social right to be judged separately from our past indiscretions and to keep our social lives to ourselves. If we don’t, ten years from now, we could see a potential senator’s Vine all over CNN, from that time he tried the Kylie Jenner challenge (here some excellent reasons why you SHOULD NOT try it!), and honestly as funny as it would be, it would still be entirely unfair.