Posted by Martin Waxman
on Feb 20th, 2013 in Posts
And is that a bad thing?
It is if it diminishes the quality of our relationships. And it feels like we may be heading in that direction.
Let me explain what I mean. It wasn’t that long ago when I knew tons of phone numbers. And that helped me in my job as a publicist in the days when we looked things up, used pay phones and occasionally called media just to chat.
I didn’t need a Rolodex because I had it up here (visual: finger pointing to head). I could tell you the locale of a 212, 213, 312, 310 or 612 without a moment’s hesitation.
I also knew tiny facts and the most trivial of pursuits. Which meant I could make wonderful, if random associations. The stuff good stories are built on.
And I recalled the big things too. After a meeting I could tell you what people said, agreed on and when stuff was due.
I didn’t simply memorize, I learned things by heart. And I think there’s a subtle, yet important difference between the two.
These days, we’re focused on what I’ll call the new memorization. That is, we may not know a phone number, email address or the name of a star in a film, but we do know exactly where to look for the info and can find what we need in an instant. And that’s good.
Search may be semantic, but it lacks emotion
However what we gain in immediacy we lose in reflection. We’re fixated on the task at hand and tend to gloss over the little things, you know the minute, but important details.
If we rely simply on the first few results we get when we search, we’re choosing fast over stories. Tell over show.
And while humans like facts a lot, we love stories.
And stories are an essential part of any relationship.
Now I’m not saying we should delete all our contact information and remember every Twitter handle in our heads.
But I do think we need to stop worshiping at the altar of big data and learn how to go beyond mere facts. We should take the time to discover the not so obvious connections; the ones that give people something they can relate to and ultimately remember.
Simple memorizing is regurgitation. But when you learn something by heart you take it to heart by attaching passion, meaning, creativity, insight, surprise – all the things that make up a good story and help a relationship come to life.
What do you think?
No substitute for memorization – photo credit: quinn.anya.