Here’s an opportunity to use my new acronym for those aging in the digital age: LITO, for Lucky I’m Too Old. There is growing evidence linking overuse of digital devices to memory loss and depression in later life. My response? LITO!
Lucky I’m Too Old to worry about things that may happen decades hence.
Lucky I’m Too Old to overuse my devices.
I am pleased to report that I am not overly reliant on my main device: my mobile phone. I always had a good head for phone numbers. Until we all stopped committing them to memory and starting saving them to Contacts and Speed Dial. My New Old Self is proud to report that I still know a few numbers off by heart.
My other devices are a laptop for work, a tablet for play, and the satellite navigation in my car – known as Satnav in Europe and GPS in North America. For most of my life I’ve been reading maps on paper and I still keep a few in the glove compartment. For the day (or worse, night) I can’t get the little screen to turn on or hear that lady tell me how to Go Home. Lucky I’m Too Old to be at risk for Hansel and Gretel Syndrome – the new term for an overreliance on GPS that erodes one’s innate sense of direction.
“When I was a young man there were no satellite navigation systems to depend upon, so I observed where I was going, navigating by visual clues like pubs, large buildings, parks and so on. When you follow a route from a ‘sat nav’ you don’t really observe these clues and therefore don’t sharpen the short-term memory.”
– Dr Richard James, Cambridge, Massachussettes, USA, online comment
Now it turns out that members of Generation B.C. (born Before Computers) may have better brain health than Generation A.D. (born After Devices).
Neuroscientists caution those younger and more digitally savvy than us that they’re putting their brains at risk by not reading maps or dialling numbers, and leaving all that challenging work to their devices. Research shows that they may be making themselves more susceptible to conditions like Alzheimer’s disease as they age.
“Growing scientific evidence suggests a future where our brains may prematurely fail in later life through under-use, thanks to Mother Nature’s rule that we ‘use it or lose it’. You might describe this new threat to our mental health as ‘e-mentia’ – memory-related problems, and even depression, linked to our overuse of new technology.”
Lucky I’m Too Old to quit using email, now that it’s become my default means of communication – although it is reportedly now disdained by youth.
“Email is approaching obsolescence as a communicative medium. Most people under the age of 30 think of email as an outdated mode of communication used only by ‘old people’. In its place they text, and attach documents, photos, videos, and links to their text messages and Facebook posts the way people over 30 do with email. Many people under 20 now see Facebook as a medium for the older generation. For them, texting has become the primary mode of communication. It offers privacy that you don’t get with phone calls, and immediacy you don’t get with email. But texting suffers from most of the problems of email and then some…
Text messages magically appear on the screen of your phone and demand immediate attention from you. Add to that the social expectation that an unanswered text feels insulting to the sender, and you’ve got a recipe for addiction: you receive a text, and that activates your novelty centres. You respond and feel rewarded for having completed a task… But remember, it is the dumb, novelty-seeking portion of the brain driving the limbic system that induces this feeling of pleasure, not the planning, scheduling, higher-level thought centres in the prefrontal cortex.”
– Daniel J. Levitin, The Organized Mind: Thinking Straight in the Age of Information Overload
Lucky I’m Too Old to worry about the “I” in Instant Messaging. Unless there’s a life-threatening issue at stake, don’t expect a reply instantly to any message. I may not even be near my phone – something that does not happen with younger people, whose smartphones are like a fifth limb.
If, like me, you don’t constantly monitor your phone, that’s all the more reason not to overpay for texting. You should know that SMS, for Short Message Service, is among the most overpriced services offered by cellphone companies.
No one is too old to seek a better deal, so make like a hipster and use messaging apps like Whatsapp or Facebook Messenger that eat up only tiny bytes of your data plan. Or save time, get personal and give your tired thumbs a break: instead of typing on your phone, give your aging vocal chords some exercise and leave a voice message.
Young people are used to having it all, now, with a quick click. But having grown up on technology that often took time to crank up, I can handle a 5-second wait to see a website. I never minded waiting a week to watch the next episode of a TV series. In fact, I miss the days when the TV schedule ruled. I fondly remember the era of Appointment TV when viewers happily tuned in again next week: “Same time, same channel”.
We are now in the époque of Anytime TV. With digital recording, VOD (Video On Demand) and, inevitably, pirating, you can watch what you want, when you want, where and how you like it. So you can binge-watch episode after episode of a series with no break to find out the next twist in the tale.
This is also the era of Anytime Phoning. Coming home no longer means picking up phone messages and emails. You can now be interrupted any time or place by rings and pings on your many devices. Just remember that you don’t have to obey the demand for an instant response like a frenetic teenager. You can ignore the digital nagging – and say LITO!