Here’s info about and a personal journey on how the Internet radically alters our memory
A few weeks ago, I questioned whether I was losing-it with my memory. I’d do a task on my website and the next day I’d take a look to do it again, only to surprise myself that it had been done.
This wasn’t good news and for a few days I was quite shaken., I have a family history of Alzheimer’s and this might be a warning shot across the bow. But then I read a similar story from Copyblogger about eroding attention span and thought about this.
Two days later, I ran an impromptu test by asking myself to name just two of the titles I’d just read through my rss feed not two minutes before.
Oh crap! (That’s not what I really said but this is a family friendly writer)
I thought about this for a few days. I made notes to myself about the kinds of things I remember and what I forget and thought about it some more.
Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome
The bottom line is I clearly have Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome. A condition caused by trying to jam far too many unrelated items of news and information into my brain on a daily or even hourly basis.
I’m not sure any of us are meant to emulate a computer with all that data going into our memory banks. And while I’m sure it’s in my head somewhere, the problem is that I haven’t related the new information to anything else so that giant connected 4-d spider web we call memory is not functioning the way it was designed to do. It’s filled with irrelevancies and single unconnected facts.
I have to remind myself, my brain isn’t an “it’s overloaded” but rather I’m overloaded.”
Research On Aging Shows
Aging research shows that adults only slow down in memory responses because we relate everything to everything else in our brains and there’s just that much more inside us to access. It’s not we forget, it’s that it takes longer for the processes to work. Dr. Michael Ramscar wrote this as part of the abstract for a much longer study report:
”Rather the results suggested that older adults’ performance might result from applying a strategy that may have been shaped by their wealth of real-word decision-making experience. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences.”
From a personal point of view, this means I’ll remember better if I’m more selective about what I read. Rather than trying to inject it with a firehose, I’m working to set up a selective system with fewer but richer resources.
It might be compared to building rock walls. Instead of taking a full truckload of rock and gravel, I’ll only take the larger rocks to build my walls. I’ll let the gravel stay in the quarry (or Internet) rather than in my working space (brain).
It’s called digital minimalism and here’s a quick primer on how to transition to it. (link is to blog post but the book — link on his site — is excellent)
After six months with increasing amounts of minimalism, I’m feeling human and competent again. I’m one of those works in progress we like to confess to rather than the painful truth of not having done anything significant.
I’m now quite selective about who I read and listen to.
Pruning The Voices
Slowly but surely I’ve been pruning out words and authors that don’t inspire me or that are repetitive in their work.
I’ve deleted paid memberships in three online sites. I have none left.
I only take courses with limited duration and the specific training tasks I need.
My RSS feeds have been decimated with entire sections deleted.
My email subscription folder looks like a ghost town.
Note this isn’t a one time pruning. I constantly find new authors and new inputs and my feeds slowly increase over time. But now, I take a few minutes every month to prune newsletters and rss feeds to focus only on those that meet my current needs.
My preferred reading now is via a curated newsletter and I’m intrigued and interested in those. I take very few straight newsletters anymore.
I also have a stack of books (this is another addiction I’m working on and will report back about) on a side table in the living room waiting for me to read.
I’ll have to get back to you with more memory research you can use. Consider this a first step.
What I can tell you is I feel much better already with the reduced information flow.
My info-stream is a richer flow with more useful and interesting information and far fewer bits of flotsam and jetsam.
The effect of my meditations last longer before I feel my body ramping back up.
I’m not as stressed about current affairs (having stopped constantly updating the feed and avoiding the current outrage-du-jour.)
And yes, my memory is fine. Thanks for asking.