Brain In Your Pocket

Brain In Your Pocket

**This blog post was written by a student and only slightly edited by our writing crew.**

When I got my first Build-a-Bear, you can bet that I put hours (and a lot of my parents’ cash) into the process. From selecting which animal I wanted, to picking out the clothes and accessories, I painstakingly perused all my options available. And I mean ALL. I had to make the perfect, unique combination; it had to mean something to me. I felt that my furry friend was a part of me. But these feelings and personal attributes I projected onto the toy didn’t just stop in the Build-a-Bear Workshop. They happened again more than a decade later at the Apple Store.

Just like us, our phones are truly one of a kind. While there are relatively few models to choose from, each make has various colors. After selecting the color it usually takes a while to find the right phone case and accessories for all your wants and desires. Then when you actually get the phone, you have to set up an app layout, wallpapers, text size, and the list goes on. In the end, no two phones are the same.

The individuality of our phones boosts our own individuality, and ultimately our personal identity. We start to see phones as an extension of ourselves. And this tight connection changes what it means to have a phone altogether. Long past are the days of phones only providing a means of communication. With smartphones, we add navigation, calculation, entertainment, organization, and so much more. But what are all these additions costing us?

When I was in grade school, each child went home with a school directory so they could contact other students if they wanted to play together over the weekend. After a few weeks of flipping through the phone book, I had almost twenty of my friends’ home phone numbers memorized. Now, I have zero.

It’s clear that smartphones are affecting our memory for a couple of reasons:

  1. We simply don’t need to remember some things any longer. Our phones act as our brain’s external hard drive, storing information that is no longer necessary to remember, like phone numbers and notes.
  2. We have a hard time converting information to long-term memory. And this could be for multiple reasons, but mainly we make a habit out of letting the ease of searching for things outweigh the benefit of memorizing those things. Any student in a foreign language class can emulate this when they open up a translation app to search for a word that they know they look up all the time, but can never recall.

But memory is only part of the puzzle. And similar to the benefits and harms smartphones bring to our lives in terms of memory, they also impact our ability to empathize with others. Whether helping us connect with others from different backgrounds through social media, or learning about the horrors people face through the news, our smartphones can help give us the opportunity to learn about other people’s backgrounds and situations. But they can also stall that connection. Many times, emotions and connotations are lost when inflection is substituted for text, making it hard to understand what other people are trying to communicate.

In the end, when companies come out with new phones, the technology isn’t the only thing that is changing. So are we. Clearly not all the changes are good. It’s important to be aware of and understand how smartphones affect our daily lives, and to know what it means to live with them. After all, when you carry something with you at all times, it might start to carry you too.

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Smart Girl Society, Inc., is an Omaha-based nonprofit working to educate and inspire smart & confident girls, women, & families. Through educational workshops, civil outreach programs, and technology & social media research, we work with girls, parents, & educators to authenticity on social media and in real life. We educate how to remain safe on social media and how to avoid becoming a target of sextortion. We also inspire action for students to focus on their personal brand development, leadership, educational opportunities, and healthy social skills. Interested in learning more? Check us out!