“Digital Amnesia” and How Smartphones Are Affecting Our Memories
Well, this doesn’t sound very good, now does it…?
“Digital amnesia” because of our smartphones seems to be a real thing these days and it seems like things have only gotten worse in that regard since the Covid pandemic started in 2020 because so many people were isolated, stressed out, and exhausted, and they turned to their phones for an escape on social media and other things our devices offer.
In fact, 80% of people interviewed in 2021 by memory researcher Catherine Loveday said that their memories were worse than when the pandemic began.
Researchers are divided about what the digital amnesia that people seem to be experiencing will ultimately lead to as far as our memories are concerned.
Chris Bird is a professor of Cognitive Neuroscience and he says thinks that using external devices to keep track of things actually makes our lives easier.
“I take a photo of my parking ticket so I know when it runs out, because it’s an arbitrary thing to remember. Our brains aren’t evolved to remember highly specific, one-off things. Before we had devices, you would have to make a quite an effort to remember the time you needed to be back at your car.”
But another professor named Oliver Hardt thinks that our memories will just get worse if we stop using it like we are supposed to. Hardt says, “We use them for everything. If you go to a website for a recipe, you press a button and it sends the ingredient list to your smartphone. It’s very convenient, but convenience has a price. It’s good for you to do certain things in your head.”
And Hardt thinks it will get worse and possibly lead to an increase in people with dementia.
“We can predict that prolonged use of GPS likely will reduce grey matter density in the hippocampus. Reduced grey matter density in this brain area goes along with a variety of symptoms, such as increased risk for depression and other psychopathologies, but also certain forms of dementia.”
Dr. Wendy Suzuki even goes as far as to say that we have our faces in our phones so much that we’re missing out on big portions of our lives.
“If we can’t remember what we’ve done, the information we’ve learned and the events of our lives, it changes us… [The part of the brain which remembers] really defines our personal histories. It defines who we are.”
And an ongoing study that is tracking more than 10,000 American children to adulthood argues that smartphones can even change our brains.
Researcher Larry Rosen says,
“It started by examining 10-year-olds both with paper and pencil measures and an MRI, and one of their most interesting early results was that there was a relationship between tech use and cortical thinning. Young children who use more tech had a thinner cortex, which is supposed to happen at an older age.”
Of course, there’s more research to be done in this area, but that’s a pretty scary thought…
Maybe it’s time to spend a little less time on our phones and a little more time enjoying our surroundings, don’t you think?
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