Don’t worry, it’s just the feed scroll syndrome…

Did your friends recently pull your leg over not remembering the best movie that you ever saw? Did you forget the venue or the year of the most amazing football (yes yes, soccer) game you ever witnessed? Or did you forget to reply to one of the e-mails that you had put off for later (and then got escalated)? Is your memory all too human?

Well, all of this might not sound very unfamiliar. The human mind is attuned to forgetting because of multiple reasons – low priority, poor attention, lack of time, comfy jobs, etc. And there is no harm in it either. After all, we shouldn’t sweat over matters that are not life or death.

But let’s talk about something more particular that should matter.

Did you:

watch some amazing YouTube video – blew your mind away and inspired you just the way you were wanting to – then went to bed – only to lose all the inspiration in sleep?

Or:

read the most kick-ass ten points on how to be successful on Medium AND still fail to act on even one of those?

If this is you, don’t worry. I am the same. And that’s why I am writing this. But hey, I am no role model. So, better get your act together.

This piece might help:

Our minds are not attuned to playing Zip Zap Zoom after all.

Okay, cut to the chase. All of this is happening because of multitude of things. But the biggest of them all is information overload, a.k.a, privilege of access to unlimited information. Now, information has never been a bad thing. And is unlikely to be classified as one in future too. Simply because we need it to progress. But remember “Excess of anything is bad”?

To be fair, there should be questions about the way we are consuming this information and not the information itself, per se. The explosion of internet has had its offshoots, some proud worthy, others worthy of scrutiny. One such offshoot is mobile applications. While they are a goldmine in that they tell you things within seconds that you need to know, they often come with a swarm of siblings that should not be welcome in the first place. Just notice how the niche gets lost:

You are searching for some information on “World War II”. You punch in your keywords in Google search and start scrolling down. Were you inclined to choose video over article? Anyway, while watching this World War II video on YouTube, did you notice that the recommendations below were so meticulously personalised that majority of them piqued your interests? Did you click on “The History of Israel-Palestine War” or “The man who could have been Bill Gates”? Anyway, whichever one. Notice the next list of recommendations – “The History of The United States of America” or “How big is Microsoft?” depending on what you clicked before. Not to mention that you might already have come across mandatory multiple 6 seconds worth of “Hi, I am Jake and I teach people how to make money from AirBnBs without actually owning any…” (Skip Ads / get fascinated). After about 45 minutes, you finally regain consciousness.

But wait, did you get the information you were looking for in the first place? Pretty sure you did learn about World War II. There is hardly a topic that does not get answered on the internet. But do you remember all of what you saw? Or is it clouded by Gary Kildall’s misfortune? By the way, do you remember all from the story of Gary and IBM? Maybe, it is clouded by the size of Microsoft. But hey, you must remember all of Microsoft’s revenue streams, right? Because that is what you saw the latest!

From World War II to Microsoft’s revenue streams. How did we even get to this?

Also, after one week, it’s probable that you might forget having watched one of these stories completely, let alone the exact story of World War II that you set out to learn.

Same is with news, video streaming or any other app or platform in general. You might have read an editorial, scrolled through the headlines, and seen an ad or two but you will tend to remember only the icing, and forget the cake.

What’s worse? You would still feel satiated. Because you did devote time and you did access the content you wanted to learn about. Alas, it just did not stick.

Look, our brain is naturally wired to learn from reinforcement, patterns, and structure. While it’s a serendipity to stumble upon diverse knowledge, it’s the furthest from an approach. Hence, the rate of retention by our brain is likely to be less. Rate of recall? Close to zilch, nada and zero.

Before you hold your head in your hands in disbelief, let’s dive into what might help avoid this:

  • Incognito Tabs: Yes, they exist for more reasons than the one you normally use them for. You can avoid cookie tracking and hence, any (meticulously crafted) personalised suggestions. Although your location and your interest in your current video (often gauged by duration of your viewing) is still a giveaway, yet nowhere close to what you will get when you are logged in and have a viewing history. Also, cookies will not chase you after you have left. Moreover, incognito tabs tend to collapse faster on mobile than the regular ones when you clear cache. So, the chances of you leaving it open for days are less.
  • Take a learning break: If you are not the going incognito types, then you need to be slightly more conscious. Watch / read only the relevant material first and dissociate yourself. Take a moment to absorb and think about what you just learnt instead of falling for the next click-bait. Walk away, if needed. Literally.
  • Hold onto a bar tight: This might be the hardest to do. Before starting off your search, hold on tightly to the closest steel bar and be determined to not get sucked in. Be clear in your mind that you will only learn about one topic in a period and avoid looking at any other topic along the way that tries to woo you away. You might still see suggestions that seem relevant but develop your niche and stick to it. Anything else must be overlooked.
  • Repeat the same resources (use Bookmarks / Folders): This goes for anything in general. If you genuinely want something to stick, you will have to repeat. But make sure you refer to the same resources when you re-visit a topic. Of course, there are chances you might come across something better. But new information every time won’t do much good. Try and bookmark the best ones to make it easier for you.

This is not to discourage the explorer in us. Don’t get me wrong. Please, don’t. Internet can be divine. But with infinity to explore, there should be some yardstick for progress. Defined learning is one. While small lumps of information might get us social validation, they are unlikely to help us develop a fundamental chain of events that can help us retain things worthwhile.

Now, go open that Incognito Tab for the right purpose! Cheers!

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