Smartphones have created a collective unease. Look at a street scene and observe how many people are heads-down on their phones. Some of them are walking while staring into their tiny screens. Too many are texting while driving. We check our phones in bed, at the dinner table, and in the middle of conversations with real, live people. What does all this smartphone use mean? Are we addicted to technology? Is it shaping our minds and making us into new and different people, tap by tap?
According to this BBC article, technology is "Eroding Human Memory". Now that we depend on our smartphones to hold our address books, we no longer need to physically punch out phone numbers to call someone. As a consequence, people can't recall their friends or partner's phone numbers unassisted. Some can't even remember their own number. Perhaps our memory itself is eroding? Are we less able to remember anything now that our phones are remembering almost everything? The jury is still out on this question.
If you're worried about what your smartphone is doing to your memory, or perhaps some other aspect of your mental health, the first thing I would recommend is to focus your attention on exactly how you use your smartphone. Where and how do you use it instead of your memory. Is it helping or hurting you to use it this way?
Going phone-free for a day, a weekend or an entire vacation can yield valuable insights on how mobile technology has altered your cognition. See where you get stuck without your phone. What do you do when you're waiting or when you're bored and there's no phone around. Are their cravings? How strong are they? Does it feel like an addiction when you're separated from the Internet?
If your inquiry into what smartphone use has done to your memory or your mind in general has brought up more questions than answers, consulting with an expert could be a smart decision. I specialize in helping people with online and Internet addiction as well as other problems brought on by our always-on technological world.
Please feel free to reach out to me for a complimentary consultation about your specific concerns.
Gordon Shippey, MA, LPC