Things We Used to Remember

Ever since I started using my smartphone, I’ve noticed a decline in my memory. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m constantly inundated with information. Or maybe because my phone distracts me, so I don’t focus as carefully as before. Or it might be because my brain decided it doesn’t have to waste precious energy remembering stuff that’s always, and instantly, a few swipes away.

After writing my blog about Grandmother wisdom a few weeks ago, it reminded me of the analog days. The times when we memorized phone numbers. I used to remember all kinds of things such as addresses, recipes, birthdays, and other important events. My brain was teeming with useless trivial facts and odd bits of information. I even knew how to get places without GPS and narrated directions. The first time I drove to the airport in Toronto, I had to navigate using road signs, plus a few key pointers committed to memory. Now I routinely plug the destination into my navigation system, even though I’ve been there enough times to know the way. But with narrated directions, I can rely on something else to help me navigate.

I memorized recipes I made regularly. Now, I can barely remember which link I used the last time, especially if I didn’t favorite it. However, with so many options available, I also have the opportunity to discover new things and techniques. This is a definite advantage, but sometimes slows me down reviewing multiple choices. Or trying to remember which recipe I used the last time. Other times I rely on my patchy memory of a recipe and cobble something together, hoping for a good outcome.

In an effort to keep my memory muscle strong, I now try to challenge myself to get places without GPS. Or type in phone numbers instead of relying on contact information to autofill what I need. I can’t really explain the link between my smartphone and memory decline, but I know it’s happening. It would be easy to blame it on the aging process, but something else is going on. And who are we without our memories, even if they only amount to a few phone numbers, some amazing recipes, and the assurance of knowing how to get from A to B without narrated directions.

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