Twenty-nine years since the Wallabies have won on this ground a kiwi girl tells me as she looks up from her phone to glance at the game. The guy on my right is in finance, he says the best thing to do with a share portfolio is move money around slowly, he recites an article head read that he wants to share with me. I look over to see another guy outside who is busy burning steaks on the BBQ while he shows someone else a golf app that I’d feigned interest in earlier.
I’ve mentally checked out, the thirty-something people at our BBQ are nothing but a murmur in the background of my mind. The tedium and meaninglessness of chatting to a room of my flatmates well dressed, intelligent and professional friends seems to be caused by a distinct lack of substance.
I’ve noticed it increasingly more over the last few years, this kind of omni-presence of people. The constant regurgitation of information they’ve just been fed and the inability to regale me with the stories that I enjoy so much. I’m more likely to be shown a meme, a tweet they’ve re-tweeted or a pin they’ve just pinned than to be told of that time when they were younger that they rescued a dog from drowning in flood waters.
What is this obsession with at-once information caused by the ever refreshing world at our fingertips doing to our long term recollection? And if this new tool is shaping the way we interact then how is it shaping our identity or our “selves”? We are all now able to gorge ourselves on information but its not so obvious what the consequences of this new form of gluttony are, as it is with the traditional eat-too-much-get-fat gluttony.
As everyone knows from studying, long term memory isn’t instantaneous. It takes a good environment, quiet & without distraction to consume information properly in the first place. Following this it takes reflection to really make it solid. Increasing our likelihood to remember things is helped by limiting the amount of information going in.
I felt my mind, at the BBQ, was a glass that was already full and every time I started a new conversation I was being topped up with new information. Subsequently the cup would overflow & now I struggle to remember the name of a single new person I met.
It’s rare now to stop consuming, to get out of the loop of posting, liking, scrolling, sharing, friending, following and pining so we can pay attention to what’s going on in front of us & what’s going on inside us.
It’s rare to do because it’s hard, the search for newness is addictive.It’s a primal instinct that ensured we found fresh water and followed the seasonal availability of food. However now, with the basic essentials covered, this searching instinct is hamstringing human progress. Without the ability to cultivate long term memories, we can lose our identities. Becoming nothing more than information processors. Reflecting only what’s current, Having meaningless interactions about information that comes as a river flowing at high speeds into a small and already full glass.
Don’t get me wrong the television, smart phones, radio and the internet have bought humans closer together. The very nature of these inventions cry out for human contact. But the humans we are, are shaped by the selves our memories create.
Our need to seek is a force that can move mountains. Make sure you’re looking for something worth remembering.
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