Emily Joyce was at a yoga retreat when she realised her memory was not what it used to be.

“I was with a group of friends and we were trying to remember the name of a restaurant,” says Joyce. “None of us had our phones and it took us so long to remember it.”

For 38-year-old Joyce, from NSW, this wasn’t simply forgetfulness but a deeper indication of how her reliance on technology was affecting her. “I started to wonder whether being connected all the time reduces our brains’ ability to work out complex things – or even answer easy questions,” she says.

“Digital dementia” is the idea, coined by a neuroscientist, that constant use of digital technology can result in the deterioration of cognitive abilities such as short-term memory.

“Many of us struggle to switch off and that can create stress, anxiety and conflict,” says Dan Lubman, professor of addiction studies at Monash University.

Lubman believes “90 per cent of people get enormous benefit from the internet, but the challenge is having it constantly available”.

He says we are only beginning to comprehend its potential and drawbacks: “We need time to develop rules and strategies around its use because at the beginning we tend to use it without any guidance and that can cause great harm.”

– Lindy Alexander

Read more: How an Internet Overload Could Lead to Digital Dementia

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