Memory Strain

The Digital Calling CardHow many phone numbers did you know by heart twenty years ago?  How many now?  How many people did you communicate with on an average day in 1989?  How about now?  Thinking about the incredible changes that have occurred in just twenty years can leave a person wondering just how we ever managed to accomplish as much as we did before the age of the internet.

Most of us now have over seven newer ways to stay in touch with other people including social networks, mobile phones, email, and instant messaging.  It was not a problem to remember the phone numbers of our closest friends and family twenty years ago but, with all these other options available to us, just how the heck are we supposed to remember contact information?  Heaven forbid if the world is ever hit with some strange electro-magnetic pulse that wipes clean the contents of every computer on the planet … billions of us would be left strugging to remember our spouse's phone number just to make sure they're alright.

Why Don't You Ever Talk To Me?

Instant communication can certainly eliminate the barriers we face with long distances and make the world seem like a smaller place, but it also puts an incredible amount of strain on us as we feel an obligation to check an ever-increasing number of voicemails, inboxes, and profiles pages … each with their own set of login and passwords.  If we fail to check one of these for any length of time, be it a day or a week, we can have an incredible number of messages waiting for us or, worse, we could miss some of the senseless gossip that permeates these incredibly tight social networks.

But doesn't this just make things more complicated?

There have been times where I've started a conversation on Twitter, followed up with a phone call, fired off an email to confirm some information, and then met with the person a few hours later.  The line between online and offline, which was once quite defined, has become so fine that it's difficult to tell the difference between one and the other.  Over the next few years we're going to see a whole new etiquette regarding conversations … and it's going to embrace complexity.

Sometimes, I Just Don't Know

While wondering just how many people remember the contact information for friends and family, I decided to make a quick (and informal) survey asking the following questions:

  • Do you know your home or cell phone number?

  • Do you know your spouses' cell phone number or mobile email address?

  • Do you know your parents' home or cell phone numbers?

Oddly enough, 35% do not know their own phone numbers … mobile or otherwise.  More than 60% do not know the phone number of their significant other.  That said, almost everyone remembers their parents' phone number … perhaps because it hasn't changed in 30+ years.

It will be interesting to see how this trend continues in the future.

What do you think of this trend?  Will communication become more complex in the future?