After a bit of digital research, it would seem that digital amnesia can be interpreted four ways:
– Forgetting things that used to get committed to memory, such as telephone numbers, when technology removes the need for us to remember and use them on a regular basis;
– An increasing challenge in performing functions that technology can do for us more efficiently but that were previously done manually, such as math;
– Not relying or trusting our memory and reaching for the phone to remember or prove something; or
– Forgetfulness when it comes to details, due to the constant influx of information from so many sources that our brains do not have enough time to process, digest and retain.
While I quite appreciate the idea of the unlimited potential of the brain and the theory that we are only harnessing a fraction of what it is capable of doing, it does seem like a bit of a departure from conventional thinking to consider that the brain does have its limits and that we are there when it comes to information overload.
For example, when it comes to details, I cannot tell you how many times I have found myself in a conversation and stumbling to try to accurately quote something I heard on TV, on the radio, or through one of the social media platforms I read regularly. When combined with the flood of emails I receive daily at work and in my personal accounts, as well as my friends’ Facebook posts and tweets from my fellow writers and runners, it’s a wonder that with that quantity of factoids in my head I am able to recall anything.
Or worse yet, God forbid I should start mixing up stories such as things I read about products to keep the cat off my kitchen counter with solutions to help deal with unwanted body hair. That could be disastrous on many levels.
At first, I just thought that my occasional forgetfulness or lack of remembering details was a side effect of approaching the half-century milestone, especially when names just seemed to escape me more and more. But given the social acceptability of calling almost everyone “Dude”, I felt that was my get-out-of-jail-free card if I ever needed it, so I did not get too perplexed about it.
My biggest challenge these days seems to be keeping track of loyalty cards, sales and coupons coming at me through every digital orifice. Sadly, I always seem to remember the promotion as I am going through the check out and either the coupon or card is in my messenger bag, in the car or on the kitchen counter. As organized as I like to think I am, I have considered keeping a list of coupons and point cards and consulting it every time I leave the house, but I think that even for a list keeper, that might be over the top.
I know there are apps to help with that, but an app to help me manage digital information I can’t manage on my own is not only a blow to the ego, but just enabling digital amnesia to a higher level, isn’t it?
Fortunately, in recent years, I have not found myself checking my iPhone or iPad every 6 minutes as the average seems to suggest (from whom, I can’t remember at the moment, but I know I read it somewhere a while back). I would like to think that I can defy the urge to Google things or look it up on social media when a minute or two of processing the question and the answer in my head will keep the gears in my head running smoothly and accident-free.
But either way, despite trying to limit my consumption of digital content, I still find myself swamped in ad mail I never read and often find myself trying to get my name off email lists only to be back on them a few months later thus perpetuating the problem.
Whichever of the four interpretations resonates with us most, it all relates back to the same idea that while computers are very powerful machines our brains are too. We just need to strike the right balance in not letting technology do all of the thinking for us.
While on the one hand it was a bit troubling to come to the realization that in some ways I am at the mercy of technology and that my brain is getting a bit lazy as a result, the consolation was to find out that information overload is potentially real and that I was not in fact losing my marbles. What a relief!
Nurse, please cancel my reservation at the rest home!
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