The Goldfish Theory

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For how long do humans attach themselves to something or someone that occupies their brain space every waking hour until they conveniently choose to forget and move on?

Written by: Amol Telang May 29, 2021

They say goldfish have a memory span of 3 seconds. Yes, there have been experiments conducted to prove otherwise, but let's just run with this for now, shall we? Okay, so why are we discussing goldfish here? Aren't they supposed to be the 'pièce de résistance' in the homes of the wealthy, where an aquarium would rival the size of a 1BHK in Mumbai? Well, yes! But what we're talking about here relates not just to the rich, but also to us mere mortals and more specifically, our memory. Homo sapiens - a fancier name we have given ourselves - are known to have one of the sharpest memories among living beings on the face of this planet. Even with our grandchildren in our lap, we would be able to re-iterate every single detail of the time we spent playing gully cricket as a kid, right down to the match-winning shot. Or how we wore our parents’ clothes, running around the house, stumbling in their shoes. But then again, do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning? Or the name of the guy you met at a meeting last week? Or worse still, do you know what happened to the celebrities, CEOs, and influencers who were caught in the #metoo movement? No, right? It’s because, beyond a point, you stopped caring. The same topics that filled up your notification feed every morning, found themselves in every watercooler conversation at work and led to debates with family at dinner, now find no place in the awfully busy lives that you lead. Not a single minute! Why? Well, I have a theory - one that I like to call The Goldfish Theory. Man has been blessed with not just a sharp memory, but a selective one. You could think and talk about someone or something all day long - for a couple of days, a week or maybe a month. But that’s it. As our lives face new experiences every single day, what mattered so much to us a month ago, now probably occupies a rarely accessed corner of our brain, if at all. Else, we move on with our lives, replacing our notifications, watercooler conversations and dinner debates with the new ‘talk of the town’. Don’t get me wrong - I’m not trying to call out our lack of long-term commitment or interest here. There’s a silver lining to this trait of man. It helps us get over trauma - an accident, the loss of a loved one or an abusive, toxic relationship. But there still is another side to it, where we conveniently choose to forget what mattered so much to us not too long ago. Let's look at a few examples, shall we? Gangnam Style Introducing the world to Korean pop music, widely referred to as K-Pop now, the music video by Psy blitzed its way to the top of the YouTube charts with everyone dancing to its beats at every nightclub in town. Heck, the West Indies men’s cricket team also made it their signature move on the field, with millions watching worldwide. Today, you would probably curse the DJ for playing an 8-year-old song. K-Pop enthusiasts the world over have moved on to the new sensation, BTS. The 'desi' crowd has latched on to the latest Bollywood earworm with repeated tunes and trash lyrics. What happened to Psy? Did he release any new songs? Don't think any of us cared to find out. We all know people generally do a Google search for what's on their mind. Let’s take a look at a chart representing Google Search trends to support the theory:


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