Digital amnesia: do you remember?

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Are you living through your screen?

Think about how hard you try to keep memories in your brain instead of your digital device. In today’s highly technological world, the common train of thought involves  ‘I wish I had more battery to take a picture’ instead of actually enjoying the moment and forcing our brain to create a solid, lasting memory trace.

Not long ago, a photo of an old woman surfaced experiencing life through her eyes rather than her screen, reminding people that reality is not what our digital device suggests.

I’m not just complaining about the digital era and the fact that we document everything with our phones nowadays. A new study conducted throughout Europe suggests that memorising is not a concern for us; we would rather look up an address or phone number in our device than memorise it. Adults who remembered their childhood phone numbers could not recall their current partner’s digits. In the UK, only 51 per cent of participants recalled their family member’s number, while in Italy 80 per cent of them did.

Our smartphone is not an extension of our brain

Our memories are being weakened, this is something being referred to as ‘digital amnesia’. Brains need exercising and training, too. Information that we can look up in seconds affects long-term memory. Our brains are not registering, they are immediately forgetting, and they are not building up lasting memory traces.

Every time we recall a memory, our brain strengthens it – this is the perfect way of creating a permanent memory. When we’re constantly looking something up – repeating on-the-go information – our brain does not make a trace of it. If you’ve ever had a chat with a friend and said ‘wait, let me write this down so I don’t foget’ and you type it into your phone, you’re giving your brain one too many reasons to actually forget it.

Recording information, such as taking photos or videos, is also affecting our reality of the memory. Not committing a certain moment to memory could actually affect the way we encode it, and possibly changing our memory of how the event took place.

Exercise your brain

Learning a new instrument can help your memory!

Fortunately, it’s not too late. The brain needs to be exercised and trained properly; this will help boost long-term memory. Simple exercises such as memorising a grocery list, or your work’s phone number can help strengthen your memory traces. Here are some ways to exercise your memory:

  1. Memorise a list or number: write down a list of 10 items and memorise it; try repeating it an hour later. Increase the number of items or numbers every day or week.
  2. Learn a new instrument or language: this takes considerably more time and dedication, but it stimulates the brain, helps an aging brain and helps create lasting memories.
  3. Work your hand-eye coordination: whether it’s through a new sport or hobby, or by doing fun coordination exercises at home, this makes your brain focus and helps your memory become stronger.
  4. Recall your day: when you’re in bed about to call it a night, trace your day step by step from the moment you woke up. What you wore, where you went, what you ate. Try being as detailed as possible.

There are hundreds of brain exercises that will help your short- and long-term memory. And if you really can’t stay away from your phone, there are plenty of apps that will train your brain.

This does not mean that you are required to remember everything – use your brain space wisely. But things such as names, phone numbers, addresses or even a friend’s wedding needn’t be lived again or searched for through our devices. Force yourself to memorise certain things and keep your brain healthy.

[Image:, PublicDomainPictures]