The following is a guest post from Christina, Executive Editor at AMACOM.
I was recently reading a blog about “smooth brain syndrome” and it got me thinking about memory and concentration. While the blogger likes to joke with his wife that his brain is sometimes “smooth,” I generally tell my husband my brain is “full”. As in, don’t tell me at 10pm that I have to remind you about something tomorrow, because my brain was filled to capacity by 8pm. But even before I read the Atlantic article that sparked this blog, I had been hearing a lot of concern from people about how the internet is changing the way we think. (Why everyone blames Google is beyond me.)
Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows, writes that his mind is starting to expect to process information the way the Internet does “in a swiftly moving stream of particles.” For me this started not so much with the Internet, but back when I first got a cell phone. All of a sudden I was accessible anywhere, my thoughts, my activities, everything could be interrupted at any point by anyone, even those who called me by accident. Then came the Blackberry. When we first bought our house, my husband used to laugh at me because I would get mad at appliances. Everything beeps when it’s done. As if I should stop what I’m doing because the dishwasher is finished. As if I’d forget I put something in the microwave if it didn’t beep repeatedly until I open it. Then came juggling a family on top of everything else. While I’m sure it’s true that what we read affects how we think, and I am sure that the Internet affects us, I’m not so sure that is the only or even the most influencing factor on this incredible change. I think our reaction is similar to what happened in the Industrial Revolution. We are adjusting to the reality of being readily available to everyone and everything at any time, from work, to family, to the media, to advertisements, and yes, even our appliances.
That’s why, as Chuck Martin in his new book Work Your Strengths: A Scientific Process to Identify Your Skills and Match Them to the Best Career for You points out, working memory is one of the most important brain functions for becoming a high-performing individual, especially for women. Being able to keep everything in your head while bouncing back and forth completing complex tasks is not just important. It’s critical to survival. Which is not really a surprise. To be able to function on a daily basis, I’m not only keeping track of detailed projects, but of relationships, household details, and what day my son has to bring something in for show-and-tell, and often all at the same time. My entire life is a highly orchestrated pin-ball game where I am the pinball, and I have to be ready to change directions instantly in order to make the best impact. It’s the accessibility and the expectations of being accessible that is changing the way we think and function. The world is simply too much with us. But don’t worry. We’ll adjust. We already are.
Thank you Christina!