Q the cat died in July this year, within a day of coming home from the hospital with the baby. I had taken her to the vet a few days before for what seemed to be arthritic problems (she was part Maine Coon and they develop hip issues) and found out she had terminal, widespread cancer. The subsequent turn of events, as one might imagine, were unexpected and unpleasant.
When this “memories” pattern started being used on social media, people were outraged when they saw how it could be “dark,” not in the sense that it sought to manipulate the user, but surface something painful. Still, it continued to be used and the concept has spread to other digital products, because I’m sure it’s great for engagement.
To me this is a reminder of how the web is like a garden, and we are mere gardeners. We plant intentions and do our best to weed, prune, nourish, or protect. But we are stewards, at best, of a system much greater than ourselves. Oftentimes, it’s only over time that we are truly able to see how and why.
I know she was just a cat–I’ve been lucky to not have lost a close human in my life–but when I saw this pop up, yeah, I grieved. But I didn’t feel outraged that my profession had put this kind of thing in the world. It was no different than me going about my physical environment and coming across another stimulus–however unprompted–that triggered a memory.
There are parts of ourselves that are also like parallel lives, like our subconscious. Sometimes they show us parts of who we are that are unsettling, because they are deeply ourselves. As each of our relationships with the web continue to deepen and grow, I think they become one of these parallel memories too. That’s partly why I feel so strongly about keeping it free and open.
The baby came a little earlier than expected and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was partly because I was so stressed out about Q. Life was about to begin and end on its own terms, without my input. I was not given a choice but to move along with it. It did not care if I needed time to process and reflect. I felt powerless, and once I surrendered to it, I was able to see more of its beauty.