My husband’s grandmother had an uncanny memory for numbers, especially phone numbers. She could, and often did, recall every phone number and address she had ever had! She would be in the middle of a conversation and say something like, “That was when I was married to my second husband and we lived at 3269 N. Rust Street.” She also remembered birthdays, anniversaries, upcoming weddings, etc. and bought gifts months in advance. She had a “gift closet”.
There are other people in our family who have remarkable memories for numbers, trivia, history, and a variety of topics. But according to a recent survey our memories, and more specifically the memories of the younger generations, are suffering from our reliance on digital devices. Turns out that memory must be used- exercised- or it gets weak, and our ability to just ask Siri or Google anything we want has made us lazy. An impromptu street survey failed to find anyone who could recite their best friend’s phone number. “Oh, I don’t have to know it. It’s here on my phone.” was the standard reply.
I know from my own experience that I felt enormous relief when Google and other search engines were developed. I have never been great with dates- just ask my former history teacher. I have only vague recall of the countless paintings and artists I memorized for college. I could probably manage to recite all fifty states, but not their capitals and certainly not our presidents. I’m lucky if I remember the birthdays of my own children, much less those of friends or cousins. My mind is filled with memories and images and experiences, and even some names and dates, but I can never rely on it to tell me what I want to know at the exact moment I want to know it. So HURRAY for Google and Bing and anything else that helps me find information.
However, I can also understand the concern about the next generation’s use of devices. I have already detected an “attitude” among some young people. “Why should I learn/know/remember that, when I can just look it up?” Why indeed? Some facts and figures work together in our brains to enable us to solve problems quickly and efficiently. Some of our knowledge and memories just enhances our enjoyment of life. I suppose we all remember the things that are important to us, that our brains deem worthy of recollection. However, I must admit that once in a while some “useless” fact or date that I learned in school pops into my head and allows me to make connections with something else. My personal “search engine” I suppose. There is a lot of stuff packed away in this old brain that I don’t even know is in there until I need it.
So…you can choose to remember, or just let a collection of chips and wires do it for you.
I plan to do a little of both.