Last week I asked a coworker for his phone number, and was shocked to learn that he didn't know it. "I never call myself," he apologized, as he retrieved it from his Smartphone. Later I asked him the score of the baseball game he had attended the night before. He couldn't recall that either, but quickly found that on his Smartphone too. Perplexed, I asked myself, "Are we allowing our Smartphones, i-pads, and tablets to dumb us down?" It looks to me like some of us have become so dependent on our Smartphones to find, store, and retrieve information for us that we are absolutely helpless without them. How many phone numbers of your friends, family members, and associates do you know by heart? How many usernames and passwords would you be able to recall if they were not saved on your login screens? If you're honest with yourself, the answer probably lies somewhere between zero and very few. THE WAY WE WERE Remember back in the years B.C. (before cellular) when every phone number in your universe was permanently stored in your head? When everyone provided explicit directions, including landmarks (turn left at McDonald's) with no GPS? I think we were all smarter back then. We had to process, store, and recall information because there was no electronic crutch to lean on. Nowadays it seems no one can remember anything or go anywhere without an electronic assist. USE IT OR LOSE IT Well, if you'd like to maintain what's left of your brain, here are five brain calisthenics you can practice daily: 1. Dial phone numbers Every now and then, dial all ten digits from memory when making a call. It may cost you a few seconds, but it will force you to use your brain. 2. Give the GPS a break Use your GPS to find a location where you've never been, then purposely shut it down and navigate your way back home. You can do it. 3. Pass on the prompt Click "NO" when prompted to save usernames and passwords automatically, and try to remember them. It doesn't really matter if you can or not; it's the trying to remember that's important. 4. Say those numbers When asked for your phone number, recite all ten digits aloud. Many people don't know their own phone number because they never verbalize it. 5. Ditch that camera Resist the urge to snap a photo of everything. Instead, take a good look at that amusing person, place, or thing, sear it into your memory, then go home and describe it to your loved ones in exquisite detail, just like the old-timers used to in the 1990s. DEFEND YOURSELF Remember, it's okay to have a Smartphone and still use your brain. And there's nothing wrong with defending yourself from the unwelcomed advances of that sneaky little device that's hell-bent on hijacking the fuzzy remnants of your memory and dumbing you down.
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