Facebook & Google are here to stay, but…

So is Alzheimer’s. With Facebook & Google, then, is it a face-off?

Many of us, over the last 10-15 years or so, are increasingly leaning more towards the tools that these virtual giants offer us. Would you agree that the numbers run in millions and are perhaps approaching billion? Anyway, who’s counting, eh!

Photo Courtesy: https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet

If we don’t have the answer in our head, we google. (Yes, a long time ago, someone decided to add “to google” to the list of verbs.) If we ‘think’ we know, but just want to be sure, there’s Wikipedia, or Quora, or some such. Why should I remember? In fact, where is the need to remember such ‘trivia’? In a flash we enter a query to ‘search’, get our answer, may be it’s right, or may be it’s wrong, but who’s to know… there’s so much information on the web, without enough policing. In fact, we refer to it as an information overload. Oh, dear… and there’s so much to remember, with so little time; but we must all be geared to impress… our knowledge.

Okay, so we’ll move on to a more fun topic. Where? But of course, let’s head to FaceBook (or SnapChat), Twitter or Tumblr… It depends on whether you’re a Baby Boomer (what, aren’t they already in the archives!), Generation X, a Millennial or Whatchamacallit… oh, yeah… Generation Z (shh… I just looked that up)! If truth be told, does one need to go anywhere? Not really. Umm… sorry, could you excuse me for a moment please, my phone’s blinking.

Our smartphones are continually flashing notifications… about a birthday, or an anniversary (of endless friends we’ve accepted, or follow – that we know, or not –  on social media sites); of someone who sends a friend request; and texts on WhatsApp or Messenger, or Viber, or Skype, or Slack, or…

Usually, you recognize in a flash who has texted you, the caller id is on display; but do you know the caller’s contact number? Recently, do you recall scratching your head, racking your brain in an effort to remember your own phone number… I’ll admit, I’ve done so, just occasionally. Oh dear!

Even if you don’t wish to ‘wish’ – or greet – a partner long-parted, or a friend you’d rather avoid, or a deceased acquaintance (pardon me), their birthday reminders will continue to flash by way of notifications. There’s no escape. Yeah, you may think you’ve turned off the darn thing, changed your privacy settings, but there’s always something blinking, almost hounding you. Yeah, yeah, you could opt to turn all these off, but then you’re in effect switching off! How many of us actually do that? Few.

Now what if… yes, what if we miss out on a critical reminder about someone we do wish to greet (perhaps secretly in the hope they don’t forget you); or wish to say hello to because you genuinely care; or (think of endless reasons and possibilities)!

Why is that we’re so concerned about missing out? Well, because it defeats the core idea of staying connected, i.e. being part of a click, a club, a group, a community, the alumni, shared passions, etc. The more greetings and good wishes you receive on social media, or via text, you get deluded into believing your popularity factor (be true to yourself). But in the first place, isn’t it often faux-fame? Now it’s with this sense of obligation (read ‘guilt’), you greet or wish those whom you really don’t know, nor quite care about. In turn, they wish you/greet in a quid pro quo gesture; albeit, provided you allow them the opportunity to do so. E.g. by including your third pet’s birthday in your ‘About’… you get the drift. This then propagates.

Those of us who inadvertently ‘miss’ (or skip) a birthday, we then apologize profusely for our tardiness (because really, with all the tools at hand, is there really an excuse for being forgetful). Truth be told, it’s possibly ‘carelessness’, or simply, ‘callousness’ with an attitude of ‘why bother’!

Back in the day, without the Virtual Assistants, weren’t we more efficient? We remembered an array of phone numbers in our little Black Book; and birthdays and anniversaries were hard to forget because we actually looked forward to a party. We met up with friends or family as the occasion demanded, spent time, exchanged gifts, had a merry time, and parted. May be someone with a film-loaded camera took 10-12 photos of the event, saving the remaining 12 frames for another occasion. Shortly thereafter, we took the film roll to the nearest photo studio, had it developed; and sometimes even got multiple copies of select prints to share with close friends. Occasionally, these had date stamps… but regardless, we pulled out photo albums reminisced the good times, thus remembering dates, events, and the rejoicing at the social do.

The time when we brought our physical presence into the party, with real presents we bought for friends and for the people we cared about, (having spent several hours or just minutes searching for something they’d especially like, or what you thought you’d like them to indulge in), we actually remembered those dates. All of the emotional, and personal investment of time and effort registered in the brain. There was reinforcement every so often.

Today, our increasing reliance on these tools and platforms – social media – we have now embraced as our bosom friends, are relegating our real-life friends into virtual relationships. Everything is a fleeting moment lost in cyberspace.

We build a bevy of new online acquaintances whom we may never meet, nor truly care for.  Sadly, this could be our own undoing… our path to all kinds of forgetfulness. Forgetting the fundamental emotions that keep us tied to reality, may be the path to not just emotional paucity, but a rapid dwindling of our mental faculties.

Unless we are cognizant of this latent process that’s fast depleting our ability to recognize, and remember, all this is taking a toll on our brain, debilitating the core abilities necessary for our very existence.

Alzheimer’s is afflicting more of this world today, and will increasingly do so in the foreseeable future. What are we doing about that? All generations are more than likely to face its dire consequences. Alzheimer’s does not affect just the old or poor, less educated or less agile. Just about anyone can be victim to this. We cannot place blame on Facebook, Google or any such platform or medium. Use these platforms to advantage, but we must not be slaves to them. We ourselves must take control of our faculties before our mental health quietly disintegrates.

Let us not fear the future, but certainly pause to ponder, reflect, and remember. All of it is critical to help rejuvenate!

While this commentary is not science-based, it is based on common-sense and a broad observation of changing society over decades.  For reliable information about the dreaded disease – Alzheimer’s – I urge you to kindly visit https://www.nia.nih.gov/alzheimers/publication/alzheimers-disease-fact-sheet
Thank you.



















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