Our smart devices are beginning to make us stupid. Did that get your attention?
Neuroscientist Manfred Spitzer uses the term digital dementia to describe how the overuse of digital technology results in the breakdown of cognitive abilities. He argues that short-term memory pathways will start to deteriorate from underuse if we overuse technology.
In simpler terms, when was the last time you had to remember someone’s phone number? Got you thinking right? Some of us even get our own phone numbers mixed up sometimes and if there wasn’t a need for urgent 2k, we might not remember our account numbers. Just in case you’re lost, urgent 2k is slang for urgent cash. The point I’m driving at is that we have lost the ability to remember important information such as conversations we had with people and even names. Ever met a person for the first time and just after greeting and exchanging names, a few minutes later, you are trying to remember the person’s name? That is digital dementia.
We rely on technology to do a lot of the memorization for us. What we do not know is that it may actually be affecting our long-term memory. Take for example a student who always relies on Google to retrieve information without first thinking about it for himself, what do you think will happen? That student will most likely have difficulty remembering things because he has been training his memory to do just that. The above example emanates from a study done by Mary Wimber of the University of Birmingham which showed that participants in the UK came in highest for searching online first without trying to come up with the answer themselves. Just like digital deduction and the other supervillains of learning we have talked about, we discover that this has become our undoing. Only a few people are able to maximise the potential of their brains and make use of technology to their advantage, as you will see in the next paragraph.
Just as you would likely disagree that technology is our undoing, but rather it gives us time and energy to focus on more important things, other researchers also disagree as well. The argument goes that by outsourcing some menial tasks like memorizing phone numbers or doing basic math or getting directions to a restaurant we have visited before, we are saving brain space for something that matters more to us.
I do not have to use my brain to memorize numbers or places when I can be using that potential to find solutions to problems that still exist. Just before you nod your head in agreement, you should know that our brains are the ultimate adaptation machines, capable of seemingly endless levels of evolution and yet we often forget to give it the exercise it needs. In addition, the brain follows the principle of use it or lose it. So just before you go about thinking that you are saving brain space by avoiding menial tasks such as memorization, you should know that our brains are more like muscles rather than hard drives that get filled up and so the more you use it, the stronger it gets and the more it can store.
How to Handle Digital Dementia
In his book, Limitless, Upgrade your Brain, Learn Anything Faster, and Unlock your Exceptional Life, Jim Kiwk shows us simple tools and techniques to remember anything from names and speeches to languages, faster and easier.
A very simple thing you can do however is to try to remember something by yourself before searching it up online. Give your brain the chance to work at intervals.
What do you think about digital dementia? I will love to read them in the comment section.