Telling people to put down their smartphone and stop sending status updates when they travel or have a coversation can make you sound like an old crank, I know. But every couple months there’s another study showing that’s a good move. The latest one shows that people who take a “wakeful rest” instead of messing with an electronic device are far more likely to remember details of the experience.
In other words, stop and smell the roses, don’t stop and tweet.
In a study conducted by Michaela Dewar at the University of Edinburg, evidence shows that “activities that we are engaged in for the first few minutes after learning new information really affect how well we remember this information after a week.” In short, those who played a simple video game immediately afterward forgot a lot of key details. Those who gave their brain some time to process it all could recall a lot more. You can see all the details here: Wakeful Rest May Boost Memory.
Besides this explaining why your idiot boss or boyfriend can’t seem to remember a thing you told him because he’s always messing with his phone, it also has implications for travelers. Those who are constantly sharing photos, sending status updates to Facebook, or tweeting out their every experience are recording, but probably not letting their brain absorb as much. Their memories are more shallow. Their experience more ephemeral.
“The researchers suspect that during this 10-minute wakeful rest the brain is consolidating the recent memories, a process in which the brain seals experiences into long-term memory. Without this memory consolidation, a person may forget this information, being unable to pull it up at a later point.”
If you are suffering from social media addiction though, maybe you can have it both ways with some time-shifting. Use the trick that most successful travel bloggers rely on: keep the electronics off while you’re experiencing, turn them on during down time later to broadcast.
Doing both at once can mean a lot of lost memories, long before you are supposed to become senile.
(For lots more on this subject and strategies to make your life less frantic, see this post on the book Hamlet’s Blackberry.)