Thursday, October 30, 2008

Losing My Mind (and blogoversary)

I just wrote a column for a publication I write for about how my once stellar memory ain’t so stellar anymore. I used to remember everyone’s birthdays, I never had to keep a calendar (“It’s all up here,” I’d say, pointing to my noggin), assignments got done and phone calls returned ASAP. Nowadays—this has just started happening in the past several months—I can have something written down in two different places and still forget about it, the bills sit not getting paid (because that’s hazardous, we’ve worked out a somewhat better system then just remembering to pay them), and whole assignments, favors or conversations are just *poof* gone.

Things have been a little more stressful in life lately, so yes, stress probably has a lot to do with it. However, I also blame it on our current culture of interruption and multitasking. You know it takes me days to write an 800-word article? And that’s after I have all the research and interviews done. Days just to write it, because my e-mail bongs every two minutes, my phone rings, managerial decisions need to be made right now, etc. To write I need at least a solid two hours sans interruption. That doesn’t happen in this day and age of RSS feeds, Twitter, IM, etc.

As I complained to my boss about this “phenomenon” I’m suffering from—“I’m turning into you!” I exclaimed to my forgetful boss who I now have a whole new respect for, even more so than I already did—he pointed me to this great article in The Atlantic, Is Google Making Us Stupid? It’s hilarious because it’s true.
“Over the past few years I’ve had an uncomfortable sense that someone, or something, has been tinkering with my brain, remapping the neural circuitry, reprogramming the memory. My mind isn’t going—so far as I can tell—but it’s changing. I’m not thinking the way I used to think. I can feel it most strongly when I’m reading. Immersing myself in a book or a lengthy article used to be easy. My mind would get caught up in the narrative or the turns of the argument, and I’d spend hours strolling through long stretches of prose. That’s rarely the case anymore. Now my concentration often starts to drift after two or three pages. I get fidgety, lose the thread, begin looking for something else to do. I feel as if I’m always dragging my wayward brain back to the text. The deep reading that used to come naturally has become a struggle.”
Yes! And, he blames the Internet. Google. All those things. They’re changing the way we process information. The way we READ. Should we be concerned?! Will it soon come to fruition that I can’t sit and read a book anymore? Maybe it’s already started—I’ve put down two books this year I just couldn’t get through. I never do that. Am I destined to be completely changed forever? My friends will be so disappointed – they love my memory and my attention to detail.

[Edited to add (same day): My boss also sent me this article about how as we age we get worse at multitasking, because of all the thoughts running around in our head. We hit our multitasking peak at college age, which explains why I could take 13 credits, work three jobs and go out several times a week and still graduate with a 3.7 GPA. That girl is gone.]

After my panic attack of sorts subsided, I’ve succumbed to the way it’s going to be. We are a working society, and because we want to be faster and better than the next guy, technology needs to be by our side. If I really want to have an interruption-free day, I need to work from home. Since I did read some 30 books this past year, maybe I just know what I like to read, and those two books I put down before the end weren’t it?

I have also resolved to sound like an old woman and purposely not get on the Blackberry-check-my-email-every-five-minutes wagon (I’m at a computer and e-mail all day, it’s not coming home with me) and my e-mail ‘new message’ icon is the only thing popping up on my screen all day – no RSS feeds, no Twitter accounts, no AOL IM, no Facebook. Right now, this is the only way I think I can remain somewhat sane. I know this will probably change in the near future (as they say, if you want to play the game, you gotta get on the field), but for now, at least I can breathe.


So, one year ago today I started this blog. In that time I've posted about 130 times and, if I counted right, I read about 30 books. Thirty books a year is pretty good, I think. I've read fiction, nonfiction, memoir and young adult books on everything from Islam and zookeeping to Hmong immigrants and vampires. All in all, a good year for books.

I was thinking I may get all reflective and talk about what my blog means to me, however, in reality, it meets the purpose I intended in the beginning: to share my thoughts and create a record of the books I read. Now, when I'm having a conversation with someone about a book I read, I feel like I remember it better because I wrote about it. Or, if I don't remember much about it, I can go back and read my thoughts. And that's helpful for me.

So, for all of you who've visited Bookish Bent over the past year - thanks. I appreciate it.


doahleigh said...

Me too! I used to have a good memory, now I get so mad at my brain for how much it forgets. I not longer count on my memory for anything. Does this mean we’re getting old?

A. said...

That's the thing - I don't think it's because we're getting old. We're not old! I think it's because we're growing up and in the adult world of "too many things on our mind." We've learned too much over our 28-30 years and now our brain has to decide what's worth keeping in our head.

Why quotes from Office Space are more important than, say, a meeting at work, I don't know. Well, maybe I do: My brain prefers the fun stuff. :)

A. said...

Nevermind doaleigh - it is all connected. See the "edited to add" part in my post. We totally are getting older. Yikes!

willikat said...

one--congrats on the blogoversary!
two--you know how i feel about this situation. it's scary.
and i have been refusing to use google lately to see if my mind is up to the challenge.

Charley said...

Congratulations on your 1 year anniversary! That's awesome.

4you said...

Happy Blogoversary!! And don't worry, I'll love you even if you lose your memory. That will be just one more thing we have in common. congrats my smart, beautiful, talented bff.

CMS said...

Great post, A. I really enjoyed this one! Keep 'em coming and I'll keep reading. I can't believe it's been a year!

Wait until you have a baby and then we can talk about memory loss.

Now where did I put my car keys? ...