Digital Brains: Offloading Memory to Our Devices

Have you heard of nomophobia yet? It is “the fear of being without your cellphone.” From Wiki,  it comes from “no-mobile.” People are so addicted to their cellphones that at least one counseling site actually lists it as a new phobia.


Whether you know someone who could be described as a nomophob or not, the fact that the word even exists should help us  understand why a recent study has concluded that “we are becoming symbiotic with our computer tools.”

Our brains are becoming hybrids with our computers. We are offloading so many of our thought processes to our digital devices that we barely have the capacity to remember certain things anymore.

The study concludes: “The experience of losing our Internet connection becomes more and more like losing a friend. We must remain plugged in to know what Google knows.” Without Google I can rack my brain for hours trying to figure out where I read that certain bit of essential trivia!

An article called “Dumbed-Down Dialing” from the New York Times reports that many cellphone users don’t use phone numbers anymore since they simply look up names instead. If you read the article you will discover a oh-so-sad story about a young man who lost his cell phone at the beach and was stranded because he couldn’t remember his girlfriend’s number. I guess this explains why there is a need for a word like nomophobia.

Every new tech brings a trade-off. With the cell phone we trade off the opportunity to practice dialing phone numbers, and as the Times reports, it is the act of rehearsal that locks in long-term memory. Before digital address books “you might be exposed to a phone number hundreds of times. But now you just look it up. Technology has taken that rehearsal process away from us.” Is this bad? Not until you are stranded at the beach!

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One response to “Digital Brains: Offloading Memory to Our Devices

  • joshthejuggler

    I found this quote in the book Digital Disciple by Gary Thomas: “Truly, the more we outsource our capacity to think and remember, the less capable we are of discerning God’s call in our lives. We spend our entire lives sifting through the torrents of external stimuli, so how do we continue to pay attention to the still, small voice of God within each of us?”

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