Have you seen the movie Inside Out? It’s an incredibly creative and fun take on the human mind and definitely one of Pixar’s most memorable movies yet.
The central character is an 11 year-old girl named Riley who loves pizza, hockey and her parents, but the story is mainly told from the perspective of five core human emotions. Joy, Sadness, Anger, Fear and Disgust are all depicted as living characters that reside within Riley’s mind. These five characters take turns operating the central control panel of Riley’s brain as she encounters situations that provoke different types of human emotion.
But I’m not writing this post to give you a review of the movie. (Although I give it 2 thumbs up!)
The thing I found the most interesting about this film was a sub-plot that may have inadvertently represented a pretty big problem in today’s world that most people probably didn’t even notice when they watched it.
Our ability to remember things could be getting worse.
You see whenever Riley was asleep, these character’s secondary job was to take all of the memories she formed each day (represented in the movie by small glowing orbs) and file them away to her long-term memory bank so they could be recalled as needed later in Riley's life. An unforeseen mishap then suddenly occurs which leads to them being in a race against time to save Riley's core memories before they are lost forever.
I've been reading a lot about the topic of memory lately and the real thing actually has a lot of similarities to the movie's portrayal of the process. There are many studies that show how our brains need rest in order to transfer our memories from short-term over to long-term memory. But sleeping on it's own isn't the only form of rest our minds need. It also needs rest during the day too. In other words—daydreaming.
But there is a problem. Nobody daydreams anymore.
We live in a culture that has slowly programmed us to become addicted to feeding ourselves new information. Facebook feeds, Instagram feeds, Twitter feeds, Pinterest feeds, Vine feeds, LinkedIn feeds, RSS feeds etc. The list goes on and on. These were all things that were created to be positive for us. They are a convenient and easy way to share things with friends and family. But we're human beings and that means we inevitably mess things up.
These various networks used to have a time and a place to be accessed. But now thanks to our smartphones, these feeds are literally at our fingertips every waking moment of our lives—every we we go. And our ability to resist them even in the most minuscule moments of boredom has become virtually non-existent.
And the problem is actually two-fold. Not only are the feeds preventing us from letting our minds daydream, they are also filling up our short-term memory's limited capacity faster than it can process it. So now our memories don't even get the chance to be moved into long-term because they get kicked out of the short-term prematurely to make room for constantly new information.
And that's not all. The more we rely on our tech to remember things for us, the more we weaken our mind's ability to remember things on it's own. (Hey Siri, remind me to forget.)
The problem is that it no longer satisfies to just let our minds wander. Think about the last time you actually sat alone somewhere for more than 30 seconds without pulling out your smartphone and just let yourself think.
Speaking for myself, not that long ago I simply could not do it. Whether it was things like sitting at a red light, while eating my lunch or waiting in line at the grocery store, the very millisecond I felt bored my phone was out of my pocket and feeding me. I began to have no patience whatsoever.
Why am I writing about all of this? Because after I deleted my Facebook and Instagram accounts and got rid of my smartphone I began to feel set free. I know that probably sounds cheesy, but it's the truth and I don't know how else to put it. It's been a life changer and the positive effect it is having on me is something I don't want to keep to myself because I truly believe it can help others. In fact I've had several people tell me that the experiences I've written about this have encouraged them to make changes of their own and they too have seen a result for the better.
Also, if you’re like me and you have small kids, you’ll probably be able to relate to what I am about to say. In fact, I have heard many other friends of mine with kids say this same thing. I have only been a parent for 5 years but when I look at my kid's baby pictures I ALREADY can’t remember that time. It’s almost like those years don't exist and they have always just been the ages they are right now. And that scares me. I feel like I lost that time and I can't get it back.
I encourage anyone who reads this who has ever experienced similar to strongly consider the impact that social media sites and our smartphone's ability to constantly feed them to us are having on your mind. If you are someone who can control it then I genuinely admire you. I just know that I couldn't handle it. So I decided to cut ties and I'm so glad I did.
I'll say it again. I feel set free.
Checkout some of these interesting articles that breakdown the physiological studies that explore this problem in more detail. Very intriguing stuff!