Study Shows Social Media Use Can Impair Memory

In today’s social media-focused world, people always have their phones in their hands. Whether it’s at school, at work, or on a night out, millions of posts are uploaded to social media every day. But a new study suggests that this habit of constantly sharing life moments online may actually compromise your ability to remember these moments.

The research consisted of a series of experiments. During the experiments, participants were asked to watch two short video lectures. Some of the participants simply watched the videos, others took notes that they thought they would be asked about later, and a “distracted” group was told to make notes regarding their surroundings, rather than the video.

When follow-up surveys were given, the researchers found that those who recorded their thoughts on the video lecture noted a distanced experience from watching the video. As a result of this, their memory of the lecture suffered.

“We didn’t find it surprising that using media impaired memory,” said study co-author Emma Templeton. “After all, multitasking, in general, can be a source of distraction, shown to interfere with memory… Just recognizing that pulling out our phones might change the way we experience events in our lives is worth keeping in mind.”

A second group of experiments consisted of a half-hour church tour. About 130 people did a self-guided tour and then a group of 240 people took the same tour in pairs. Some participants took photos for themselves, while others took photos to post to Facebook or took no photos at all.

After the tour, tests showed that those who took no photos during the tour kept the best memory of the experience. The no-photo group tested better than both the Facebook-sharing group and the personal-photo group.

The research team concluded that the process of digitizing experiences is more likely to impair memory.

People all around the world constantly upload pictures or posts of their life experiences to social media. This is becoming a problem, particularly with vacations. Seeing as how 63% of Canadians agree that they decide on a vacation destination for the purpose of relaxation, posting about a vacation could actually make it less relaxing and less memorable.

It’s still not known how and when using media impacts memory abilities. Some research has actually shown using photography can enhance memory. But nonetheless, multitasking can have an effect on memory and it’s important to keep that in mind before posting to social media during an experience.

Leave a Comment