In my last #digidisciple post, I chatted a bit about memory in storage. I touched on the idea that in order to form memories properly, we need to pay attention.
Working memory is the form of short term memory (STM) which is actively processing information. Experts say that we can only hold at most seven things in our working memories at one time. No wonder I’m so forgetful! My mind is so cluttered up, I’m often jumping from one thing to the next. And overloading my working memory means that the transfer to long term memory (LTM) just doesn’t take place. And if it does, it’s a faulty, inaccurate memory.
I remember part of what I was listening to, be it a conversation, a radio programme, a talk, but not all of it. I’m left with that disconcerting ‘tip of the tongue’ sensation, or a sense that I should know something, but can’t quite retrieve it.
Skim reading and multi-tasking
Of course, in a digital age I’m even more likely to be multi-tasking in my mind – but to such an extent that what I retain is – well – not quite what it was or what it should be. Ever had that weird and faintly annoying thing where someone latches onto something you said or did and takes it completely out of context? When I’m not paying attention, I’m in danger of doing it myself.
The phrase “skim reading” comes to mind.
So in our digital world, how can I use the mediums and media available to improve my attentiveness, not make it worse? We can get a bit doom and gloom-ish here – yes, we have shorter attention spans; yes, we’re more bite-sized than dinner-sized and yes, I do think there are potential problems here.
Being positive and taking action
But how can we use digital media to help us remember? To remind us to pay attention? What are the things that distract us – can we make them reminders in themselves?
And how do we cope with the differences between us – those who find tweeting during a sermon helpful to their attentiveness, but those sitting beside them who find it hopelessly distracting? I often wonder if perhaps we need to have ‘mobile friendly’ zones in our church spaces – and the equivalent of a ‘quiet zone’ in other areas, like a Quiet Coach on a train! How can we help each other pay attention, and not hinder each other?
You can drive a car well, or you can drive a car badly. And paying attention has a lot to do with it! How can we pay attention to the way we use social media and other tools in our lives? How can we use these things well – to direct our attention towards God?