With ‘Digital Amnesia,’ Screens Wipe Minds Blank

By Celia Rivenbark
Tribune News Service.

Recently, I realized that like millions of Americans I am suffering from “digital amnesia.”

It sounds serious enough to warrant one of those too-long commercials on the nightly news, doesn’t it? (“Please consult a doctor before you take XXX for digital amnesia as treatment has been known to cause sleeplessness, mild to profound frankness that may be off-putting, oozing pustules and, what else? Oh, yeah. Death.”)

We can blame our smartphones for never being able to remember the phone numbers of friends and family. (Or, being totally honest here, your own. I stood, slack-jawed, when asked for my landline number yesterday. Dang you, digital amnesia!)

According to a Washington Post article I plan to forget as soon as I finish writing this, modern technology has caused our brains to become lazy, unaccustomed to memorizing phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries and passwords.

With everything stored in our phones and computers, why should we have to memorize stuff? Today’s students don’t stand by their desks, reciting the presidents like Laura Ingalls Wilder on the prairie anymore. There’s no need to memorize when you’re just a swipe or click away from knowing that Millard Fillmore was the 13th president. Which no one will ever ask you in your whole entire life. (Ditto capital of South Dakota. I feel so misled.)

Memory tricks can combat digital amnesia according to AARP (motto: “50 is the new 70.”) If you’re afraid you are going to forget the name of the new neighbor, AARP suggests that you “take a mental picture” of the neighbor’s name as in “That’s Sandy lying on a sandy beach.” This is excellent advice. And I plan to use it if I ever have a neighbor named Sandy.

Digital amnesia often strikes in the grocery store. AARP suggests that you can easily recall your list if you take the time to first “make up a story that includes the items on your list.” For instance, “A chicken was eating cornflakes when he saw a monkey throwing oranges out of a window before diving off a cliff into a lake of milk.”

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