A good friend of one of my good friends forgets me every time I see him. We’ve hung out four times in the past several years, and on each occasion he’s greeted me with a beaming smile and an outstretched hand. “Hi, I’m Jerkface,” he says. (Jerkface’s name has been changed to avoid unnecessary shaming.)
“Hi, yes,” I reply. “We saw each other at that bar that one time, and at our friend’s apartment before that.”
“Oh, yeahhh,” he says, clearly not remembering.
Nothing knocks you down a notch like learning you don’t make much of an impression. Nevertheless, people forget each other all the time. It happens between the newest acquaintances and the oldest friends: Names, faces, occupations, birthdays, invitations, and promises evaporate so often that entire adult interactions can revolve around avoiding the awkwardness of a blank stare.
I’ve been a Jerkface myself plenty of times. At a wedding this summer, I made it halfway through a conversation with a woman without realizing I already knew her. Devin Ray has been a Jerkface, too. Ray is a psychologist who admits his head is usually “in the clouds.” “I’ve swapped some strange names with people’s names,” he says. Recently, Ray became curious about the lasting effects of such blunders, and led a largely unprecedented investigation into what being forgotten does to people. Fair warning: His findings are going to make you sorry you’re not better at remembering things.