I suppose that by now everyone has at least heard about some ideas and theories on how the Internet is making us dumb - in the sense that its unfocused, relentless hyperactivity and interactivity are changing our ways to connect and relate, our perception, our cognitive capacities, even our memory. You don't need to be familiar with Nicholas Carr's essays (although I strongly recommend them), nor do you need to read this article, also recommended, by Zadie Smith, to somehow feel that this is right, that there's indeed a difference. Try something else. For example, I've noticed that this year more friends than ever have forgotten my birthday. It's no big deal, I don't really celebrate it, but that's just the point: as I don't celebrate it, I don't advertise it; and as I don't advertise it - by inviting people to a party or something like a drink after work, or by doing something as simple as displaying by date of birth on Facebook -, people do not remember it, even those that have been quite close friends for many years (a handful of them for more than one decade). Another interesting exercise is to pick up our cell phone contact list, browse through it and see how many phone numbers we have memorized. Not many, I'm afraid. Hell, I'm positive that quite a lot of people don't even know their boyfriend's or girlfriend's phone number without looking it up (I know my girlfriend's phone number by memory, but it is not really a good example as we've been close friends for many years - but to be fair, I currently don't know the phone number of several of my best friends). We no longer need to memorize anything, not a damned thing - everything is within reach of a keystroke, a mouse click, to be displayed prettily on a screen. Friends' brithdays, important phone numbers, anything - we don't need to remember, we just need to click and our virtual, surrogate memory will give it to us; and if it doesn't, well, then perhaps it is not that important. But if we think back just a little, we'll remember a time when we could memorize in our own real memory the birthdays of almost all our friends (everyone forgets a handful of them, and truth be told I'm not the best people to preach on memory and recalling capabilities) and the phone numbers of at least our closest circle of relationships. We can argue that nowadays, with all the technology seamlessly surrounding us, we don't need to recall. But the question is: don't we?
On a sidenote, I'm not actually pissed with those who forgot my birthday or don't know my phone number - it is really not important, but let's face it, it can make quite an interesting topic of conversation - or digression, perhaps.