Title added to image by Gordon Johnson from Pixabay
When people hear the word 'amnesia' they worry because they know it means forgetting things and that's scary. It could be forgetting who you are, who other people are and where you live. However, many people have digital amnesia and that doesn't bother them, it's an accepted part of modern life.
What's digital amnesia? It seems the term 'digital amnesia' was coined in 2015 by Kaspersky Lab, a software security company. It refers to using a digital device to record certain information instead of memorising it. A person knows he/she can get information such as a phone number, address, birthday, work schedule or other facts from their phone (or other device) where they have stored it so they don't attempt to memorise it.
Image: Photo Mix from Pixabay
Why could this be a problem? Some fear people may 'forget how to remember' if they depend on devices to do the job for them.
I have read a few online articles about digital amnesia being a problem because the brain isn't being used to remember facts like phone numbers. It has been pointed out there are many people who can recall their home phone number from when they were a child but today they don't know their partner's mobile number because they use the number stored in their phone.
However... It is not unusual to have strong memories of things from childhood and in fact elderly people suffering dementia may well remember events that happened in childhood but be unable to remember what they ate for dinner today.
I have not seen anyone point out that phone numbers of 60 years or so ago were much shorter than they are now. I lived in a country town and our number, which I recall along with grandma's number, consisted of just 3 digits plus the name of the town. That was much easier to remember than a modern ten digit mobile number. I see the sense in using my contacts function to store phone numbers, especially as some of my friends have a second mobile number or they still have a landline as well.
Before digital devices were invented, many people wrote down phone numbers, birthdays and other information they wanted to have at their finger tips. They may have also memorised it, but often didn't, just making an effort to remember where they kept that important notebook.
People were using diaries to make a note of appointment times and scraps of paper or a notebook for lists, reminders and to record their ideas before digital devices became commonplace. I am not aware of researchers worrying that writing these things down instead of committing them to memory could be a problem.
Image: Engin-Akyurt from Pixabay
I learnt many facts when I was at school including the population of countries. I learnt how to spell the names of various countries and what their capital cities were. Populations keep changing so those carefully memorised facts quickly became outdated and useless. A few places have had a name change. What's the point in memorising facts that are likely to change? I can't see the harm in googling for current information.
Could there be a positive side to digital amnesia? Some say there could be advantages to relying on digital devices to store some information. Nancy Drew of Penn State University says it frees up the brain to retain a larger number of lasting memories. It also allows for engaging in analytical thinking and increased creativity.
Getting a balance I can see a point in not using a digital device to store every number, date and piece of information one may need. Even though there are calculators on our mobiles I still think it is good to be able to do some addition and subtraction mentally. I am old school enough to feel knowing multiplication tables has its place. However, I think using a device for storing much of the information we need to be able to access easily is sensible.
I have much to learn about modern technology but I value my digital devices and the internet and have been known to say, I can't live without the internet. I don't long for 'the good old days' before modern technology but I think we need to have a balanced approach in utilising it.
A different meaning of digital amnesia On Technopedia I read a different meaning for digital amnesia, 'Phenomenon in which technological knowledge becomes lost to humanity through constant technological advancement.' The definition continued to explain, 'When a digital source can no longer be read due to the unavailability of the reader required to read the media, hardware, software or physical media, or even if the media itself is damaged beyond repair, digital amnesia is said to have occurred.'