Are Electronic Devices Killing Our Memories?

A tool is only as good as its user.

We have reached the tail end of Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. and our family has already spent time talking about the purpose of the day and enjoying far too much barbecue.

Intermixed with it all I have had three different moments where I found myself reaching for my phone so I could Google the answers to some questions on a variety of topics.

There is nothing unusual with having to Google the answers to questions because none of us knows the answer to everything.

That is certainly true of me but two of the three times I reluctantly grabbed the phone because I knew I knew the answer to the questions except I just couldn’t remember it.

And it bothered me.

Bothered me because my memory for most things is solid.  I am usually one of the people you want on your team for trivia games because I remember…stuff.

But not this time.

Are Electronic Devices Killing Our Memories?

After the second moment of it just slipped my mind I wondered if my daily use of electronic devices has impacted my memory.

In the old days when I made a telephone call I rarely used a phone book because I only needed to hear a number once or twice to remember it.

But now I don’t call by number, now I type in the name of whomever I am calling and the phone works its magic.

“Never memorize something that you can look up.” ― Albert Einstein

If my old friend Al were here I’d ask him if living during the digital age made him reconsider his position or if it solidified it.

In concept I agree with it, but in practice I worry about it, not so much for me but for our children.

I want them to be able to answer the question of what happens if your phone/tablet/computer isn’t working or unavailable with “it doesn’t matter because I know how to figure it out without those devices.”

We have access to more information with greater ease than at any other time in the history of mankind. That is a gift, but I would hate to think it comes at the cost of our memories.

Or maybe I should clarify and say a portion of our memories. What about you? What do you think?


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  1. Dave Lesser May 28, 2015 at 6:55 am

    My memory was shit before! I actually have an easier time remembering the meaningless crap than I do the important things…people’s names, anniversaries, etc. Unfortunately, I can’t blame Google. On the other hand, my wife and I have been loving our 6 year old’s interest in getting to the bottom of something by doing a little internet research. We’ll see how it affects her memory in the future.

    • Joshua May 28, 2015 at 11:28 pm

      I probably should look into getting some hard data to refer to regarding the influence or lack thereof of the net on our memories. Would be interesting to see.

  2. Tim Bonner May 28, 2015 at 4:24 am

    I was good with telephone numbers too but now I barely know 5 or 6. People keep changing theirs too so it doesn’t seem worth remembering them in any case.

    I remember when I got my first calculator. It seemed so modern. I was just a kid. Now in some ways I never wish I had one. It sure makes life easier but then exercising the brain doesn’t happen so much.

    • Joshua May 28, 2015 at 3:43 pm

      I don’t see as many telephone number changes as I did before cellphones became so prolific.

      Definitely don’t feel like my brain gets the same exercise as it used to with numbers and what have you.

  3. Larry May 26, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    I don’t think they are killing our memories but instead making them obsolete to some degree. It would be nice if we filled our mind with other important stuff instead. And maybe some of us are.

    • Joshua May 27, 2015 at 6:16 am

      I’m sure some of us are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn but it is hard not to wonder what most of us are doing with the information overload.

      I suppose time will tell.

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