With the discoveries of modern technology came new concerns and difficulties. While we live in amazing times of innovation, it’s clear that each new addition to our lives makes an impact. Unlike before, our bodies and collective minds don’t have enough time to adjust to all the novelties. Thus, specific adverse effects are inevitable. So, do digital devices impact us in a negative way? Are they bad for our cognitive processes such as memory?
Digital dementia – is there such a thing?
New age brought new diseases with it. One of them is digital dementia. Digital devices change the way we think and function. So it’s only logical that we assume they affect our cognitive behaviors. When everything is a few clicks away, do we still exercise our memory the way we used to?
Easy access – did it ruin us?
The Internet has a lot of information. Everything we want to know is within our reach. So why bother memorizing it or retaining it in any way, when we can access it within seconds?
How memory works
There are a few different types of memory. Short-term memory, or working memory, retains everyday tidbits and lasts a short while. Meanwhile, long-term memory retains autobiographical knowledge. It also holds the firm knowledge we accumulated over the years.
Short term memory only lasts a very short while, thus the name. It can also hold only a few pieces of information. According to some studies, we can only keep seven pieces of information in our short term memory. Then, we pack them and turn them into long term memory, or we discard them.
The negative impact on the memory process
And thus we come to the source of our problem. It seems that people retain less knowledge than they once did – before digital devices became so widespread. Now, when information is at our fingertips, we store knowledge differently than we used to.
In simple terms, we are so used to “outsourcing” knowledge, that our brains see no point in keeping it. Furthermore, such an information overload makes it hard for us to focus on one or a few items. Attention is crucial for the memory process. Since digital devices make our attention scattered, we aren’t able to store information as we once were.
Is there more to it?
There’s also another obstacle that digital information poses when it comes to memory. As mentioned, our working memory is limited to a few pieces of information. But, digital devices offer plenty of information. This, in turn, leads to an overload of working memory. An overload makes it hard for our brains to keep up with the sheer volume of information we are bombarded with.
Since we can’t even process this information, let alone remember it, our brains discard it. This issue is massive. We started treating the internet and other digital sources of knowledge as an “external hard drive.”
To battle the constant attack of digital devices on our brains and cognitive processes, we have to take conscious action. Memory and attention exercises are one of the ways to do that. But it’s also important to maintain a healthy balance of “online-to-offline” ratio