At this point in the progression of our world, smartphones are a crucial and irrevocably present part of our lives. On average, people use their smartphones at least a couple of hours a day, for some, they are what we wake up to or fall asleep browsing.
A recent study showed that Gen Z spends 50% of their waking hours on their phones (averaging up to 7 hours a day). Though everyone likes to chuck this up to wasting time, many of these hours are sometimes spend doing practical things such as setting alarms and reminders, updating calendars, taking notes, or even documenting events via photos.
This phenomenon may be referred to as Google Brain, which boils down to using the internet and smartphones as an extension to our brains. According to this Digital Amnesia Report, “connected devices […] have given rise to the potentially risky phenomenon of Digital Amnesia. Many people underestimate just how exposed their externally-stored memories can be, rarely thinking about the need to protect them with IT security, such as anti-virus software.”
Does this mean that we are headed towards a digital amnesia epidemic? It seems that our dependence on smartphones to remember information may potentially be harming our memories and brain function.
Let’s put it this way, imagine one day you wake up and find out that the internet’s gone, and that your devices no longer function. How severely would that affect your life? Would you be able to remember things you jotted down in your Notes app in a hurry? Probably not.
Depending on our phones in this way is severely impacting our ability to recall important information using pure brain function. But it goes a little further than that, research has actually proved that excessive phone use leads to memory loss.
Evidence suggests that using your phone as a memory aid can benefit some areas of short-term memory while hurting others. For instance, you might discover that you remember things less clearly if you store them on your phone than if you had depended solely on your memory. A good example of this is a grocery list. If you store it on your phone and then it dies, you may not be able to remember everything. On the other side of the coin, if you don’t expend mental energy thinking about the grocery list, your memory for other things will probably get better.
While it is true that phones and social media are impacting our memories and brain function, and that may lead to a collective digital amnesia, but there is also no way that people would be able to recall things using sheer brain power. So while it does cause damage in the long run, it has been an extremely useful tool for our modern day use.
If you are feeling yourself being distracted and having your attention be pulled into so many different areas, it may behoove you to take a break and focus on being present.