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Digital Amnesia was first described and named by Betsy Sparrow (Columbia), Jenny Liu (Wisconsin) and Daniel M. Wegner (Harvard) in their paper from July 2011. Digital Amnesia is occurring throughout the world. It is a loss of information due to over-trusting digital devices. People start to store all their memories such as notes, photographs, and phone numbers in their smartphones. Over-relying on digital devices influences on the memory system. 

There are three steps in storing a memory: sensory process, short-term memory, and long-term memory. Digital Amnesia is when short-term memory does not process toward long-term memory. It is because nowadays smartphone serves as their memory–everything they need to recall and want to have easy access to is all on it.

Digital Amnesia is not only affecting younger digital natives –the study found that it was equally and some times more prevalent in older age groups. When it came to owning devices, 53.4% of 16-24 year olds and 44.8% of 55+ said they owned a tablet and used it to connect to the Internet. When they need to find an answer to a question, slightly more people 55+ admitted to searching online first (52.9%) compared to younger people, 16-24 years old (44.7%).

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Why is it happening?

Digital Devices have transformed our lives. We use our computer and smartphones everyday. They become not just the primary source of knowledge but the default storage space for their most important personal information, including contacts and images. According to the research in 2009, the average usage hour of digital media of teenage from USA was 7 hour and 30 minute per day (2000 people). This is longer than their average time of sleeping. Human’s brain does ‘memory tracing.’ The memory stores into our brain from 5 different action: recognizing, thinking, experience, sensing, and acting. However, because  of the technology development, people do not put effort to think about the problem and just search it online. Therefore, they are losing their metal ability to think and criticize. 

There is nothing wrong with intentionally forgetting things that you know your devices can remember for you. We have so many things to remember, that an external memory-storage unit is of great help. Password managers are a good example of this, since they allow us to reliably remember a large number of strong, unique passwords, something that we would otherwise struggle to do effectively.

The important thing is to be aware of the digital amnesia, and to have them under your control. That is, the decision to forget certain pieces of information because you know you can retrieve them digitally is one that you should be making consciously and selectively.


Behaviour related to internet searches

When faced with a question, it is reassuring to note that most consumers (57% across all age groups in Europe) will try to remember first. However, a third (36%) of European consumers would now head online before trying anything else, rising to 40% of those aged 45 and over. Similarly, while two-thirds (67%) of consumers say they would sometimes make a note of something they had found online, (12%) would never record it,

confident that it will always be out there somewhere, rising to 14% of those aged 45 and over. A quarter (24%) across all age groups, say that they would forget an online fact as soon as it had been used, rising to 27% of those aged 45 and over.

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It  is not scientifically proved as a disease yet. However, it is true that this symptom will lead people to dementia. Due to digital development, people do not actively recall the information even though this process is a very efficient way to create a permanent memory. Since people are using computer or digital devices, the tasks are accelerated and mental labor is reduced. People do not think but just copy and paste the words from the internet. When people read the book and physically write them on somewhere, they can keep think about the topic while writing it. Therefore, there is a data processing in their brain. However, it is mostly impossible to do this through digital media. 

When people do not use this function actively, their brain will be degraded. There are increasing number of people who gets early onset Alzheimer. The research shows cognitive decline is beginning more frequently in adults around age 45. It is 15 to 20 years earlier than in previous generations. About 10 percent of the 5.5 million Americans with Alzheimer’s are under the age of 65. Using digital devices increases the quality of our lives. However, we should use them appropriately.

1. Spend hours talking and not looking at your phone.
2. Challenge each other who can go the longest not checking social media.
3. Take weekends to digitally disconnect and create memories with each other.
4. Use the weekdays to recall funny incidents and memories that you want your family or friends to remember.


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