Recently, I realized that like millions of Americans, I am suffering from “digital amnesia.”
It sounds serious enough to warrant one of those too-long commercials on the nightly news, doesn’t it? (“Please consult a doctor before you take XXX for digital amnesia as treatment has been known to cause sleeplessness, mild to profound frankness that may be off-putting, oozing pustules and, what else? Oh, yeah. Death.”)
We can blame our smartphones for never being able to remember the phone numbers of friends and family. (Or, being totally honest here, your own. I stood, slack-jawed, when asked for my landline number yesterday. Dang you, digital amnesia!)
According to a Washington Post article that I plan to forget as soon as I finish writing this, modern technology has caused our brains to become lazy, unaccustomed to memorizing phone numbers, birthdays, anniversaries and passwords. With everything stored in our phones and computers, why should we have to memorize stuff? Today’s students don’t stand by their desks, reciting the presidents like Laura Gene Wilder on the prairie anymore. There’s no need to memorize when you’re just a swipe or click away from knowing that Millard Fillmore was the 13th president. Which no one will ever ask you in your whole entire life. (Ditto the capital of South Dakota. I feel so misled.)
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Memory tricks can combat digital amnesia, according to AARP (motto: “50 is the new 70.”) If you’re afraid you are going to forget the name of the new neighbor, AARP suggests that you “take a mental picture” of the neighbor’s name as in “That’s Sandy laying on a sandy beach.” This is excellent advice. And I plan to use it if I ever have a neighbor named Sandy.
Digital amnesia often strikes in the grocery store. AARP suggests that you can easily recall your list if you take the time to first “make up a story that includes the items on your list.” For instance, “A chicken was eating cornflakes when he saw a monkey throwing oranges out of a window before diving off a cliff into a lake of milk.”
Which is great, but I’m not sure that most people have “monkey” on their grocery list. Or you could do what I do and simply “write a list.” You’re welcome, AARP.
One of the most embarrassing ways digital amnesia gets us is when trying to recall the name of a movie. Once again, the monkey eaters at AARP are here to help. They suggest you concentrate on one of the movie’s stars and create a vivid mental picture. For instance, says AARP, to remember the movie “Dead Ringers,” you could mentally picture star Jeremy Irons “playing dead and wearing a lot of rings.”
I prefer the method of menopausal moms everywhere: Ask your kid, but remember to be specific. “What was the name of that Nicholas Sparks movie set at the beach, starring the pretty but troubled blonde?” for example, is obviously too vague. Hope this helps y’all.
CELIA RIVENBARK is a New York Times best-selling author and humor columnist. Visit www.celiarivenbark.com.