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I can remember. I simply choose not to

Submitted by on Wednesday, 20 July 2011 No Comment

There’s a 30-year-old fishing tackle box on top of my refrigerator that I keep moving from house to house, though for the life of me I don’t know why. It’s covered with a thick layer of dust, and I haven’t opened it in the two years we’ve lived here.

It’s filled with recipes, clipped from magazines and newspapers or copied from the family archives. My laptop is near the kitchen, so I have no reason to open it anymore. Not when Google search is so handy.

Ah, yes, Google search, which is destroying our memory. Except if  you read even the abstract of the recent study, that’s not what it says. Computers aren’t destroying memory. They’re changing the way we use memory. Instead of focusing on preserving facts, we instead concentrate on where to find the information again.

Yeah, I’ve read “The Shallows,” and it took hundreds of pages to fail to convince me that technology is killing our brains. It was filled with anecdotal evidence attempting to refute scientific studies, with a dash of whimsical longing for the way things used to be. I cannot believe it was nominated for a Pulitzer. Ironically, “The Shallows” was what pushed me over the edge into eReader land. Why should I scrawl notes on PostIts and stick them to pages when I could easily type in comments and transfer them to my computer?

When I get down to the nitty-gritty, there are very few things I need to remember:

  • How to make coffee. That’s an essential life skill.
  • My phone number, because people ask for it. I don’t need to remember anyone else’s number. They’re stored into my contacts and backed up.
  • The rules of grammar, because my work day would be really tedious if I had to stop every three seconds to look them up.
  • Basic Web coding, though I picked that up by osmosis after looking things up every three seconds.
  • How to use my son’s EpiPen, because there are times when a search isn’t fast enough.
  • My kids’ names, but ask them how many times a day I blow that. But, then, my nieces suffered the same affliction at the hands of their parents, and my nieces are in their 20s now.

Remembering anything else is negotiable.

For example, I know I have to be three places tomorrow but I have no idea at what time. That’s why I have an online calendar that feeds into my phone. I know that I have something planned for dinner, but I can’t remember what. The information is on a spreadsheet on my computer. I know that my grandmother’s baked bean recipe is somewhere in the grime-coated tackle box, but I can search my site in less time than it would take me to move things around on the top of the fridge to get to the box and find the recipe. And did I file it under side dishes or vegetables? Online, it doesn’t matter.

There’s no denying that we’re living in an age of “information overload” if we choose to let ourselves get overloaded. I’ve done that at times – ever since I discovered that PDFs are much easier to read on a Kindle if you have them coverted to the Kindle format, I’ve uploaded an average of 100 pages a day. It’s stuff I wouldn’t have read a few months ago if I’d had to do it sitting in front of my computer.

Am I retaining all of what I read? Of  course not. But, then, I never did. But at least now I can take notes without smearing ink all over my pillow. And I can search and find it again later.

Copyright 2011 Debra Legg. All rights reserved.

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