Where Oh Where Has My Concentration Gone? Away…

Morning from the Silver State!

It’s official. Fall is dead… the cold weather is here to stay until a fluke in Flip Flop February, and then back to cold until the snow finally stops around the second week of June (if we’re lucky) :P

The semester is finally zooming through week 11, and the end is within our grasp! It’s a time for monstrous papers, hideous exams, and scrambling around like madmen trying to complete group projects. Multitasking is a must, my stress levels are all over the map (just ask my girlfriend), and it’s holiday season.

Sitting in my IS class last night, I was prompted to write this blog from a phenomenon that has only recently developed, and that phenomenon is the “Google search” function built into a myriad of software platforms and how it has changed our patterns of memory and our knowledge base. As an IT professional, I find these tools absolutely invaluable, but a few incidents in my personal life made me wonder what they’ve done to our brains.

A mad need for technology is nothing new, and in one of my most popular posts, people commented on how tech dependent they were. The amount of gadgets I own increases every year, with no end in sight!

The three areas this “search” function is dominant is in Windows 7 and iTunes. Obviously, it’s also the core driver behind Google’s search engine (are there even any other search engines worth using?) but I’ll generalize it and say websites in general.

Windows 7

The Windows operating system has come a long way from Windows 95 (makes me shiver just thinking about it). I was not an early adopter of Windows 7, although I got it before it had been out for a year, and so far it’s a solid product which I think surpasses Windows XP (previously the most stable and solid OS released by Microsoft).

There used to be a time and a place when you actually had to know exactly where something was buried in the Windows menus. Do you know how you would open up the Local Services tool in XP? Exactly. In Windows 7, you merely type into the almighty search box “Services” and away you go. I prefer the new approach myself, because it’s A) easier to find things and B) you don’t have to deal with the minutia of excavating seemingly endless menus to find what you’re looking for.

iTunes

As we all know, Apple has redefined the personal music industry with their iPod and iTunes products, and only recently has the competition been able to catch up with products such as Pandora and Amazon Cloud player. With such a vast media library, it’s easy to get all of your songs mixed up, let alone not remember who sings what. I’ve become so reliant on my auto-playlists and rating system, that I’ve stopped utilizing my brain power to manage my music. I just let iTunes do it.

This realization came to me when mid lunch break, I really wanted to hear a certain song. I could hear the song in my head, picture the album artwork, but couldn’t remember the title or artist. Doesn’t do much good to utilize the power search tool when you can’t remember anything about the song! Granted, this was not some obscure song, it was one that I’ve listened to 45 times in the last month and a half, so clearly the synapses in my mind weren’t quite connecting properly.

The Interwebs

The advent of the Internet has created a global network of knowledge, thoughts, ideas, object creation, and connectivity never before seen in history. It has rewritten how we work, think, and interact as humans, and the possibilities are seemingly endless (as long as you pay your bills!)

Having that much knowledge at our fingertips has certainly changed what we “need to remember” and what we take for granted. My short term memory has definitely taken a hit because that info is either in my phone or I can Google it with ease over my 3G connected-all-in-one-smartphone-world-conquering-device.

I find that my concentration tends to wander, and even something like a string of seven numbers can be harder to remember (since I’m more reliant on my device than my gray matter). How often have you left a website after ten seconds because a piece of information didn’t show up in the search results? Exactly.

Technology is great, and I love it, but our reliance on it is dramatically shifting our intelligence and how we view information. I’m not saying that we’re dumber, I would argue that we have more places to find information, but I would argue that areas we used to be smart in (naming state capitals) is shifting towards other areas.

What kinds of concentration struggles do you have now that you rely on technology so much?

Picture credit 1. Picture credit 2.

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5 Comments

  1. Maybe we’re getting smarter in how to access information instead of just remembering odd pieces of information. It’s like a library – what’s more efficient, knowing how to look up where a book is, or memorizing where all the books are?

    With that said, I can’t even tell you how many things I repeatedly look up on a weekly basis. Why bother remembering how to do something when I know the perfect instructions are the second link on the Google search “How to find X”… Same with my car; why learn how to drive somewhere when the GPS will tell me.

    That’s a little scary, when you think about it.

  2. Haha, great thoughts Mike! I definitely agree with looking things up repeatedly. It’s amazing how Google organizes the perfect instructions and places it at our fingertips. Perhaps that memory will soon be a lost art? Who’s to say…

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