Smart devices raise risk of digital amnesia

  • Misbaah Mansuri, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Oct 10, 2015 01:18 IST

For seven years, Raghunath, 43, had stored all his information — confidential documents, photographs and video clips — on his smartphone. The businessman would set reminders, even for meetings only 30 minutes later. He no longer needed to remember phone numbers of relatives or friends, and it did not bother him much. His phone was always there.

That changed a year ago, when Raghunath lost his smartphone to a heavy downpour. He went into depression, locked himself alone for hours and suffered losses at his business. His family then sought psychiatric help.

The dependency on smartphones and addiction to technology, mental health experts said, has led to an increasing number of people suffering from ‘digital amnesia’ — where people tend to forget important information because they think they can rely on their digital devices to look them up. “I realised I was using digital applications more than my own senses — my smartphone camera more than my eyes, storing information on the memory card more than in my brain,” said Raghunath, who is now on a digital detox and has switched to a simpler phone.

Amitabh Seth, psychology professor at SNDT Women’s University, Churchgate, said, “Digital amnesia has not been recognised scientifically yet, but the fact is, if you use your mind less, your neurons (brain cells) will build fewer connections, stagnating the brain’s development.”

That we are using our brains less was evident in the results of a recent online survey by Kaspersky Laboratory, which found that 50% of 1,007 Indian adults who took the survey treated the Internet as an extension of their brains.

“Digital amnesia is caused when there is information overload and the desire to hold on to more information. This, however, makes the brain lazy, leading to forgetfulness,” said Dr Harish Shetty, psychiatrist at LH Hiranandani Hospital, Powai.

All is not lost, though. Experts said focusing on social interactions and engaging in puzzles will keep the brain stimulated.

“We should be constantly challenging our brains by working on brain-sharpening puzzles and sudukos to guard from digital amnesia mentally slowing us down,” said Dr Anshu Kulkarni, a child psychologist from Bandra.

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