Why Can’t I Remember All The Articles I’ve Read?

Jul 11 · 4 min read

A few weeks ago, I questioned whether I was losing-it with my memory. I’d do a task on my website and the next day I’d take a look to do it again, only to surprise myself that it had been done.

This wasn’t good news and for a few days I was quite shaken. I have a family history of Alzheimer’s and this might be a warning shot across the bow. But then I read a similar story from Copyblogger about eroding attention span and thought about this.

Two days later, I ran an impromptu test (without planning for it) by asking myself to name just two of the titles I’d just read through my rss feed not two minutes before.

I couldn’t.

Oh crap.
I made notes to myself for the next two days, about the kinds of things I remember and what I forget and thought about it some more.

The bottom line is I clearly have Internet Attention Deficit Syndrome.

I’m not sure any of us are meant to emulate a computer with all that data going into our memory banks. And while I’m sure it’s in there (my head) somewhere, the problem is that I haven’t related the new information to anything else so that giant connected 4-d spider web we call memory is not functioning the way it was designed to do. It’s filled with irrelevancies and single unconnected facts.

I have to remind myself, my “brain” isn’t overloaded” but rather “I’m” overloaded.”

Research On Aging Shows

”Rather the results suggested that older adults’ performance might result from applying a strategy that may have been shaped by their wealth of real-word decision-making experience. While this strategy is likely to be effective in the real world, it is ill suited to some decision environments. These results underscore the importance of taking into account effects of experience in aging studies, even for tasks that do not obviously tap past experiences.”

From a personal point of view, this means I’ll remember better if I’m more selective about what I read. Rather than trying to inject it with a fire-hose, I’m working to set up a selective system with fewer but richer resources.

It might be compared to building rock walls. Instead of taking a full truckload of rock and gravel, I’ll only take the larger rocks to build my walls. I’ll let the gravel stay in the quarry (or Internet) rather than in my working space (brain).

Digital Minimalism

I confess this hasn’t fully happened yet for me. It’s one of those works in progress we like to confess to rather than the painful truth of not having done anything significant.

I’m now getting selective about who I read and listen to (podcasts).

Pruning The Voices

I’ve deleted paid memberships in three online sites. I have none left (oops — just paid for Medium) :-) No more guilt about not taking this course section or downloading this practice sheet! I will only take (and have planned for) courses with limited duration and specific training tasks.

My Flipboard feed numbers have been halved and will be whacked further.

My RSS feeds have been decimated with entire sections deleted.

Curated Newsletters For Tech

I also have a stack of books (I just counted — there are 36 non-fiction) on a side table in the living room waiting for me to read. I also have 12 waiting ebooks (mostly fiction) on my iPad.

Bottom Line

What I can tell you in these early days is that I feel much better already with the reduced information flow.

My meditations last longer before I feel my body ramping back up. I’m not as stressed about current affairs (having mostly stopped constantly updating the news) and I’m focusing more on (gasp!) writing.

All I can say is that I’m moving in the right direction. Not sure of the destination yet but it feels better to be more selective.


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Former nurseryman, now writer and curious about what’s over the next hill and how to get there in either my Triumph Spitfire or sailboat.